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Study Highlights Consequences of Biopsy Contamination, Switching Errors

Posted on April 7, 2015 by Kelly Wolford
microscope

An estimated 4,570 misdiagnoses of prostate cancer occur each year in the U.S., leading to about $880 million in unnecessary medical expenses, due to contamination and switching errors that occur during the biopsy process, according to a new study.

The study, “The Clinical and Economic Implications of Specimen Provenance Complications in Diagnostic Prostate Biopsies,” appears in the April issue of The Journal of Urology. It raises alarming issues for those who are undergoing (or considering whether to undergo) testing for prostate cancer as well as for many other cancer types.

Mishandling of Tissue Samples Can Lead to Misdiagnoses

A biopsy involves the removal of tissue. The sample is sent to a lab to be analyzed in what is called a histopathology.

Unfortunately, in the process, the sample may be switched with or contaminated by another patient’s tissue, which the study labels “specimen provenance complications,” or SPCs. In many cases, SPCs may be caused by the negligence of the medical professional handling the sample.

For this study, the researchers focused solely on prostate biopsies. However, biopsies commonly are used to test patients for skin, lung, breast and other types of cancer.

According to the researchers, out of the estimated 806,251 prostate biopsies performed each year in the U.S., there are 20,322 biopsies impacted by SPCs (or 2.5 percent).

Nearly a quarter of those impacted biopsies, or 4,570, are “clinically meaningful.” In other words, they result in either a false-positive diagnosis (a diagnosis of cancer when it does not exist) or a false-negative diagnosis (a failure to diagnose cancer that exists, which can also be called a missed or delayed diagnosis).

When either type of misdiagnosis occurs, it can be costly to patients and their families in many ways.

For example, a false-positive diagnosis can lead to a patient undergoing radiation and chemical treatment or taking medications that can lead to several thousands of dollars over the course of a year.

A false-negative diagnosis, on the other hand, can lead to the cancer reaching an advanced stage before it is addressed. In turn, the only treatment options available to a patient may be highly complex and expensive.

Of course, cancer misdiagnoses can lead to problems that go beyond medical costs. A misdiagnosis can also cause a patient to lose income and go through tremendous physical and mental pain and suffering. Family members are impacted as well.

Was Your Cancer Misdiagnosed?

If you believe that you or a loved one has been harmed by a cancer misdiagnosis – either a false positive or false negative – you should contact an attorney without delay. It will be crucial to have your case thoroughly investigated in order to determine why the misdiagnosis occurred and who should be held responsible.

For instance, the legal team at Powers & Santola, LLP, could examine the medical records in your case and determine whether an error occurred during the biopsy process such as a switched or contaminated tissue sample.

Contact us today by phone or through our online form to receive a free and confidential consultation.