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Medical Misdiagnosis: False Positives in Prostate Cancer Biopsies

Facts about prostate cancer

Prostate cancer begins when cells in the prostate gland start to grow out of control. It is a serious health concern, especially for older men. In fact, prostate cancer is the second most common cause of cancer mortality for males in the United States.

About one in nine men will be diagnosed with prostate cancer during their lifetime. It is more likely to develop in older males and in African American males. The average age at diagnosis is about 66.

How liquid biopsies work

A biopsy is a procedure in which a medical professional removes tissue and cells to test for the presence of a disease. According to the National Cancer Institute, a liquid biopsy is a test done on a sample of blood. Often performed using a simple blood draw, the test can tell scientists about cancer DNA in the blood. The DNA is sequenced in order to identify the genetic alterations in a patient’s tumor.

prostate cancer diagram

Prostate cancer is a major health concern for older males.

The accuracy of liquid biopsies

Liquid biopsies are not always reliable. Sometimes there are mutations in DNA repair cells that can read as being cancer-related even when they are not. A paper exploring this issue was published in JAMA’s November 5, 2020, edition. False positives can be particularly common in elderly patients.

“When we study cfDNA using liquid biopsies, we can’t definitively say that we’re studying only the tumor in these samples … What we haven’t quite realized is that many mutations detected via liquid biopsy are not derived just from cancer, but could also be benign mutations from the white blood cells,” noted Geoffrey Oxnard, MD, a thoracic oncologist at Dana-Farber Cancer Institute.

Making decisions

The American Association for Cancer Research stresses the importance of shared decision making between patients and their providers regarding the risks and benefits of prostate cancer screening, and follow-up options for abnormal prostate cancer screening results. Shared decision making may be especially important for African American men, whom prostate cancer disproportionately affects.

Why misdiagnosis matters

The United States Food and Drug Administration approved two medications for use in patients who have positive results from a liquid prostate cancer biopsy. This means that a false positive could result in someone receiving medications that they do not need. Any course of treatment costs money and has side effects. People could very well lose money and deal with discomfort due to a misdiagnosis of prostate cancer.

Contact Elk & Elk for a free case review

It is critical to act fast once you suspect misdiagnosis. If you or a loved one have been misdiagnosed with prostate cancer following a liquid biopsy, contact the medical misdiagnosis lawyers at Elk & Elk. Our personal injury attorneys and investigators can explore the issue and help obtain the compensation you deserve.