Get a Better Breast Biopsy
Unfortunately errors can affect up to 15 per cent (probably higher in South African National Health Laboratory Services) of the biopsies according to a study recent study. (In SA these recommendations will help insured women who use the private health-sector but not so much the millions of women in the public health-sector).
Experts says few steps can help ensure that your biopsy is read right:
* Enquire about the pathology lab that will examine the sample, says Patrick Fitzgibbons, MD, a spokesman for the College of American Pathologists. Ask your doctor, "How much have you worked with this lab? do you have confidence in it?" Make sure the pathologists are board certified; if they're not, think about asking your doctor to send your biopsy elsewhere.
* Find out if your hospital has a tumor board; many do, Dr. Fitzgibbons says. This is a multidisciplinary team that meets to discuss many aspects of cancer cases, often including biopsy - guaranteeing more consultation about the best approach. In one study, these discussions lead to improved breast-cancer-treatment plans for more than half of patients. If your hospital does not have a tumor board...
* Consider getting a second opinion; (medical) insurance often covers it. South African patients must check with their medical aid scheme.) "If a proposed treatment (might) change your life, you owe it to yourself to sure the diagnosis is right," says surgeon Pamela Gallin, MD, author of How to Survive Your Doctor's Care. Have your doctor send your biopsy slides another lab and request they be read by a pathologist who specializes in the suspect organ, Gallin says.
Readers Digest October 2010