Study reveals biopsy errors common for precancerous cells

Biopsy specialists in New York and elsewhere face remarkable challenges when attempting to differentiate between the different types of cells presented for their review. Studies show that misdiagnoses of samples of breast tissue are unfortunately more common than anyone would prefer. This leads to undesired results such as cancers that are not detected and surgeries on healthy tissue.

There are approximately 1.6 million breast biopsies carried out every year in America. A recent study focused on a sample size of 240 specimens that were examined by 115 different pathologists. The results showed that pathologists have difficulty diagnosing precancerous conditions. Pathologists correctly identify abnormal cells about 50 percent of the time. The lead author of the study characterized this result as "no better than a coin toss." False positive results came back 17 percent of the time, and a full third of all samples analyzed had precancerous cells that were not detected.

Samples of normal tissue were mistakenly found to have suspicious features in 13 percent of the cases. There were also similar concerns with misdiagnosis of a condition known as DCIS, a related syndrome in which the abnormal cells are all contained within a milk duct. One American woman in 60,000 will experience DCIS in an average year. Unfortunately, pathologists misdiagnosed DCIS 26 percent of the time.

Patients who go to a doctor for a proper diagnosis and experience preventable errors have the right to seek compensation for the harm that has befallen them. They may choose to consult with a lawyer to seek the best methods to file a medical malpractice lawsuit that precisely describes the harm that has been done to them and requests financial redress from the appropriate parties.

Source: Boston CBS, "Study: Biopsy Specialists Frequently Misdiagnose Breast Tissue," Associated Press, Lindsey Tanner, March 17, 2015

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