Pathology of Errors

Pathology of Errors

Early diagnosis with microscopic techniques may be saving more lives of women with breast cancer, but the potential for horrible mistakes has also grown. (NYT)

Three years ago, Monica Long was told that a mammogram indicated ductal carcinoma in situ, or D.C.I.S., an early form of breast cancer. As a result, she had a quadrantectomy, where about a quarter of her breast was removed. When Long’s medical records were re-examined later during a routine checkup at a different facility, she was told that she never had cancer at all. Experts say that her case is not all that unusual.

Dina Aguilar also had been misdiagnosed but discovered the error just before she went into surgery for a complete mastectomy. Both Long and Aguiler are featured in this New York Times video that examines the danger of trusting a single pathology report to diagnose cancer. Now that advances in cancer screening have allowed pathologists in a lab to find suspicious cells in even a tiny tissue sample, only technicians with an abundance of experience are considered qualified to do the readings. DCIS in particular is often misdiagnosed because it closely resembles another cell abnormality that is benign.

The video uses microscopic views of breast cells with the two conditions to illustrate how easily an inexperienced pathologist could be confused, and serves as a cautionary tale.

CHANNEL: New York Times

Length: 7:01

By Stephanie Saul & Shayla Harris

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