How a Missed Cancer Diagnosis Can Be Deadly

One of my huge pet peeves with the poor excuse disguised as conventional medicine in this country: All the preventable errors made in the hopes of ''curing'' a patient's illness, of course, at the expense of the rest of their health. A new study shows how those mistakes can be particularly grave if that disease is cancer.

Based on a review of patient specimens (pairs from the same area in the body), the procedures hospitals and doctors use to obtain and examine tissues suspected of being cancerous are prone to mistakes that can do great harm. Here's some findings from the study, I suspect, that may worry you the next time you have a routine workup:

  • About 9 percent of the specimen pairs related to gynecological exams (pap tests and cervical biopsies) were in error. Of those mistakes, 45 percent of them were harmful to a patient.
  • As many as 12 percent of the reviewed non-gynecological specimen pairs were wrongly diagnosed, and 39 percent of those mistakes harmed a patient.
  • The majority of the problems stemmed from the sub-optimal collection of specimens.
  • Mistakes that occurred due to a pathologist's misinterpretation varied anywhere from 5-50 percent.

Although pathologists failed to agree on the source of the problems, they believe the errors they found were relatively frequent and varied depending on the institution.

The best way to limit your exposure to such mistakes: Do all you can to prevent cancer in the first place, especially since cancer passed heart disease as the leading cause of death in this country. So, if you haven't done it yet, I urge you to review my 11 recommendations for virtually eliminating your risk of cancer today.

Cancer October 10, 2005

EurekAlert October 10, 2005

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