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Mammography Leads to Misdiagnosis and Unnecessary Mastectomies

In 2006, Susan G. Komen for the Cure, an influential breast cancer survivors’ organization, released a study which estimated that in 90,000 cases, women who received a diagnosis of ductal carcinoma in situ (D.C.I.S.) or invasive breast cancer either did not have the disease or received incorrect treatment.

Advances in imaging technology over the past 30 years have meant that pathologists must render opinions on ever smaller breast lesions. Discerning the difference between benign lesions and early stage breast cancer is a particularly challenging area of pathology.  Diagnoses of D.C.I.S. have a history of confusion, differences of opinion, undertreatment, and overtreatment.

According to the New York Times:

“There is an increasing recognition of the problems, and the federal government is now financing a nationwide study of variations in breast pathology, based on concerns that 17 percent of D.C.I.S. cases identified by a commonly used needle biopsy may be misdiagnosed. Despite this, there are no mandated diagnostic standards or requirements that pathologists performing the work have any specialized expertise, meaning that the chances of getting an accurate diagnosis vary from hospital to hospital.”

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