Breast Cancer and Misdiagnosis

Recent needless mastectomies reinforce the value in getting a second, or third, opinion.

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Every man and woman in America should get tested routinely and age-appropriately for diseases to which they may be prone. My colleague Adam Voiland has a handy list of what to get tested for and at what age on this site.

That said, however, this week two stories broke that reified every woman's worst nightmare about a misdiagnosis of breast cancer. In the first, a 57-year-old woman underwent a lumpectomy and multiple radiation treatments two years ago as a result of a misdiagnosis of breast cancer by a Long Island lab. This week the woman, Lynne Yurosko, said she "aches" for 35-year-old Darrie Eason, who underwent a double mastectomy for the same reason.

The breast cancer industry saves lives, we all know. One wonders sometimes whether it may have done its job too well. It also has the capacity to scare women into grueling, costly treatments they may not need. That's the exception, not the rule, understood.

Nonetheless, even I've fought off efforts to be overdiagnosed during breast cancer exams. While my case is not nearly as serious as that of either Long Island woman, I recently asked a doctor if a repeat mammogram was truly necessary and he agreed with me that he was being overly cautious.

Mammograms use radiation, in small doses of course. But there is a school of thought that any exposure to man-made radiation is bad for one's health.

The moral of the Long Island women's story? If you're diagnosed with breast cancer, make sure you get a second, or third, opinion.