The frequency of errors in the diagnosis has crept up lately and this is causing harm to the patients either in the form of unnecessary treatment or repeat diagnostic tests, says a new study that was published online today by the journal Cancer.
Stephen S. Raab, M.D., of the University of Pittsburgh and colleagues studied 24,000 cases in four unnamed institutions in the Pittsburgh area. They found that erroneous diagnosis was made in nearly 1,300 cases. The percentage of error was maximum with gynecology cases and was reported to be in the region of 1.8 percent to 9.4 percent. Other specialties accounted for errors between 4.9 percent to 11.8 percent. In 45 percent of the gynecologic errors, some harm was caused to the patients with 6 percent undergoing unnecessary hysterectomies. 39 percent of the non-gynecologic errors caused some harm to the patients. Almost half of these errors were attributed to poor pathological interpretation, while the rest were attributed to poor tissue sampling given for biopsy. "It is exceedingly difficult to measure the true frequency of errors in cancer diagnosis because of the variety of detection methods used, bias, and the inability of institutions to secondarily review large case volumes," the study authors wrote. "The standardization and uniform reporting of errors in cancer diagnosis is a first step in improving safety."