Unnecessary testing for some breast cancer patients

Women in Arizona and throughout the country who are treated for early-stage asymptomatic breast cancer might be getting more tests than needed according to a study presented at the annual meeting of the American Society of Clinical Oncology The ASCO, in conjunction with the American Board of Internal Medicine, has recommended against routine surveillance tests for these types of breast cancer patients.

The issue is that the tests can be expensive while studies show their benefits are few or nonexistent. False-positive results are a serious risk because they may lead to misdiagnosis, unnecessary procedures, unneeded radiation and overtreatment.

The study looked at medical records for 2,193 patients with early-stage breast cancer. It found that 17 percent of patients received advanced imaging, one of the procedures that is not recommended. During the period of post-treatment surveillance, 37 percent received tumor-marker tests. Costs for patients who received these forms of advanced testing was much higher than average.

Although it may seem as though extensive testing could be the best way to prevent disease, these tests and the unnecessary treatments that are done as a result may have side effects. Therefore, a person’s condition could worsen because of these unnecessary tests if the tests returned a false positive or detected a condition that did not warrant further treatment. A person who believes that a misdiagnosis and subsequent unnecessary treatment rises to the level of medical malpractice might want to discuss these concerns with an attorney. For a successful malpractice suit, a person must have suffered some sort of harm as a result of the error. The error also must be one that would not be reasonably made by most medical practitioners. Some excessive testing that goes against guidelines might be considered unreasonable by this standard in certain cases.