False positives in prostate cancer biopsies

Prostate cancer is a serious health concern, especially for older men. Getting a prostate exam can be intimidating for some, and having a biopsy to check for cancerous cells can be even more difficult. People in Washington State should know that liquid biopsies can sometimes return a false positive due to unrelated, noncancerous mutations.

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. In a liquid biopsy for prostate cancer, the test is looking for fragments of extracellular DNA that have been shed by a malignant tumor. Drawing blood to search this way is much easier than performing a small surgery.

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

Why misdiagnosis matters

Recently, the FDA approved two new 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 don’t 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.

If you or a loved one have been misdiagnosed with prostate cancer following a liquid biopsy, it’s a good idea to contact a lawyer. An experienced attorney may be able to help you understand whether you have a valid medical malpractice claim. It may be possible to collect damages in some cases.