Wednesday, October 20, 2010

the value of a second opinion

I hate to put it out here because I know most of my readers can relate to what this poor woman must be going through. It breaks my heart and makes me just sick. I heard a true story of a woman that went in for a breast biopsy and was given a diagnosis of cancer. Not sure what the exact diagnosis was, or if she was brca+, but it must have been serious since she elected to have a bilateral mastectomy. Now when they remove your breast tissue, it gets sliced and diced and every little piece gets looked at for cancer. This is when they realized a mistake was made. Because they did not find ANY cancer in her tissue in either breast. Turns out they put her name on the wrong tissue sample at the time of her biopsy. I'm not sure a second opinion would have even helped her because normally that would have just been a case of sending that same mislabeled tissue to another pathologist. One can only hope that the other woman whose tissue was also mislabeled has been found and that the whole lab is getting a shake down to fix the broken processes. I am not a litigious person but this just cries out sue, sue, sue. Really though, can any amount of money give this woman back what she lost? Maybe she is more forgiving than I and is simply happy that she did not have cancer.

I did not seek any second opinion on my biopsy results nor did I meet with more than one breast surgeon before my lumpectomy. Everything turned out ok in my case. I can understand why people don't seek multiple opinions. For one thing, when this is all new to you it is overwhelming and you tend to trust what they are telling you. Maybe you never heard of a radiologist or pathologist before and surely they have much more cancer experience than you do so you just go with what they say. It is also expensive to shop around for docs even if everything is covered by insurance, you still have to pay that office visit copay. Sometimes you can't even get a second opinion as is the case with testing for the brca mutation. Currently one company holds the patent on brca gene testing. This is troubling for people who want to double check the test results before making such tough decisions as removing body parts. As someone who did have breast cancer and such a history of it in my family, I would have been more surprised if my test came back negative and probably would have wanted to send my blood to another lab just to make sure. And while I am more than happy to believe that my little sisters' tests did come back negative I still can't figure out how the lab processed their blood so quickly. I think they found out two days after the blood was drawn and sent from ny to ut. Is that even enough time to get the package off the truck and into the lab, let alone run the test and call their genetic counselor? Don't forget they usually call your insurance company first to make sure they will pick up the $3000 tab before they even start running the test. All this was accomplished during the week of christmas which is a barely functional week at most u.s. companies!

One second opinion I did get ended up saving my butt. With my family history in hand, I went to my primary doc and asked her what else I should be doing to keep myself healthy and we determined that I should get a colonoscopy. Despite the fact that all the guidelines said I didn't need one until I was 50, we added up all the questionable risks (diabetes, brca, half-uncle with colon cancer) and decided to get me to a gi doctor who pulled a precancerous polyp out of me. Whew is all I can say!


  1. My jaw sort of dropped as I read this - I'd literally just posted a question on the BRCA Sisterhood saying that I was thinking about a second opinion before getting a port put in.. I wondered how mad my doctor would be at me..
    I can't beleive with all the checks and balances stuff like this still goes on. That's so sad!
    BTW, I know you aren't a facebook girl, but I'm going to share a link to this post there..

  2. Oh. My. God. That poor woman. To go through a painful surgery and long recovery and to have to face the choice of reconstruction and more surgery or just living with her new body, not to mention the emotional toll.....Oh. My. God. I hope the person who messed up is held to the highest standard of accountability.....I am now speechless.