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Bad medical test results can cause all kinds of problems

Waiting to receive medical test results can be nerve-racking. Waiting for a call from the doctor's office can inspire all kinds of feelings of dread, with relief when a test turns out to reveal nothing worth worrying about. Sometimes, however, the results mean that cancer is present or that surgery might be required. These are very serious consequences, of course -- consequences that were serious enough to be ruled in or out based on the results of the tests.

It is important, then, for the test results to be accurate. Most New Yorkers likely assume that when they go in for such a test, the results they get back will be right. It might never occur to them that a cancer diagnosis or other defining moment in a person's life might be botched because the samples are not matched with the proper person.

A study on how prostate cancer is diagnosed shows us how widespread these kinds of mistakes are. The study, which looked at more than 13,000 prostate cancer biopsies, found that as many as 3.5 percent weren't a DNA match -- meaning the results reported to those patients could not have been for them.

Aside from setting cancer-free patients on a course for possibly invasive treatments they don't need, this means that many other patients are being told that they don't have prostate cancer when they actually do. This could push treatment back to a point where it isn't enough to save someone's life had the results been reported accurately in the first place.

Source: Poughkeepsie Journal, "Medical test mistakes pose serious risk," Lisa Iannucci, June 1, 2014

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