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New pathologist protocols meant to reduce misdiagnosed cancer


People in Newton who are facing a health issue that might be cancer could benefit if it is diagnosed early. If there is a missed diagnosis of cancer, it could result in delayed treatment, worsened condition and a missed opportunity to treat it effectively. Increasingly, medical professionals are seeking ways to come to a consensus on how to study tests and analyze them to make certain all are on the same page when it comes to making a diagnosis. However, it is possible that disagreements can lead to stagnation and those who are ill will be victimized by misdiagnosed cancer and its consequences.

The importance of pathologists in formulating a diagnosis is often understated. They are the ones who come to the lab-based determination as to whether there is a disease, how extensive it is and whether or not it can be treated. Often, however, pathologists can view the tests differently. It's far from an exact science and is open to interpretation. In some instances, a pathologist can fail to detect cancer or view a tumor as being cancerous when it actually isn't. There is a new protocol being put into place for pathologists to do a better job of making accurate assessments. Technology is being implemented to assist in this endeavor.

Given that studies are being published indicating that up to 25 percent of breast biopsies are misdiagnosed as cancerous and that there were changed diagnoses in five percent of cases of melanoma were reviewed by specialists, it's understandable that changes needed to be made. When the pathologists were in agreement, there was a change in the stage of the cancer in 22 percent of the cases after they were subject to review. Pathologists were often left to their own devices when diagnosing. Standardization in procedures is meant to help the medical team come to an accurate diagnosis and prevent these mistakes from happening due to disagreements and different ways of reading the slides.

The fact that there is an increasing awareness of misdiagnosed cancer and pathologists are becoming more scrutinized with greater oversight does not help those who might have suffered a worsened condition or death. There are massive costs to a misdiagnosed cancer financially and personally. Those who have been victimized by this type of mistake need to understand their rights to be compensated by discussing the matter with a qualified legal professional to pursue a case.

Source: Wall Street Journal, "New Ways Doctors Reach Agreement on Patient Diagnoses," Laura Landro, June 9, 2015

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