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Wrightsville Beach Personal Injury Law Blog

Genetic tests for breast cancer

North Carolina women may be interested in a study that shows genetic testing is more accurate than traditional tests when determining the risk of early-stage breast cancer spreading. The results were published in the New England Journal of Medicine on Aug. 24.

European researchers analyzed the medical outcomes of 6,693 breast cancer patients and found women who opted out of chemotherapy when a DNA test showed a low risk of the cancer spreading had five-year survivor rates similar to women who chose to undergo chemo. Agendia, the Amsterdam company that makes the genetic test, believes the study is groundbreaking and "could change clinical practice." It is estimated that around 35,000 U.S. women with early-stage breast cancer could avoid the ordeal of chemotherapy each year if the test was widely adopted.

Why medical errors continue to be a major problem

North Carolina readers may have heard about a recent Johns Hopkins University report that claims that nearly 200,000 Americans die from medical errors each year. Based on that estimate, medical error is among the leading causes of death in the U.S. Another recent study by the Department of Health and Human Services found that around 29 percent of Medicare patients experienced some form of harm during hospital stays.

Some mistakes happen because doctors show poor judgment or make bad decisions. However, studies show that most mistakes are caused by system failures, including lack of communication between medical staff, medication errors and mistakes during patient transfers between hospital units.

Preventing cancer medication errors

People in North Carolina who are diagnosed with severe forms of cancer are usually prescribed several medications. In fact, some cancer patients are told to take over 20 different medications, including many that must be injected. For the cancer patients themselves or the people who are caring for them, administering all of the medications as prescribed can be a big challenge.

When cancer medications are taken in the wrong dosage, at the wrong time or as part of a dangerous combination, a patient could be seriously harmed. All medications that a cancer patient is prescribed should be taken exactly as directed, and patients and their caregivers must be especially vigilant if they are dealing with multiple medications. Before taking a medication for the first time, a patient should double check the medication against the prescription to prevent errors.

Scientists hope protein gene can improve rare cancer detection

Medical experts believe that as many as one in 10 patients suffering from pleural mesothelioma in North Carolina and around the country may be misdiagnosed. This rare form of cancer is often discovered in individuals who have been exposed to large quantities of asbestos, and most oncologists have had little or no experience with it. Making matters even more challenging for doctors is that many of the symptoms of pleural mesothelioma are also symptoms of lung cancer.

A team of researchers from Hawaii and New York have been studying ways of improving pleural mesothelioma detection rates, and they believe that the protein coding gene BAP-1 may provide physicians with a way of differentiating those with the disease from lung cancer sufferers. The protein was found in all of the lung cancer samples tested by the team, but it was discovered in less than half of the pleural mesothelioma samples tested. The results of the study were published on July 18 in the medical journal Oncotarget.

Doctors often misdiagnose patients with bladder problems

People in North Carolina who have a condition called "painful bladder syndrome" are frequently misdiagnosed. Painful bladder syndrome, or interstitial cystitis as it is called in medical literature, affects about 2.7 percent of women and 1.3 percent of men around the world. Symptoms of the condition include the constant urge to urinate and pelvic pain.

There are several theories about what might cause painful bladder syndrome but no definitive explanations. Some researchers believe that an inflammatory cell is releasing chemicals like histamine in patients who experience it. Autoimmune problems, nerve changes and allergic reactions are other things that some researchers say might be contributing to painful bladder syndrome. Patients with painful bladder syndrome frequently experience other medical conditions at the same time such as irritable bowel syndrome, migraines and endometriosis.

Survey looks at how surgeons disclose errors

Surgeons are dedicated people who do their best to help patients, so they may take it personally when making a mistake. While this shows that surgeons care and want to deliver proper medical treatment, they could also have a hard time admitting and discussing errors when they occur. North Carolina residents might like to know about the survey taken by more than 60 surgeons from three Veterans Affairs medical centers and published in JAMA Surgery.

National guidelines advise hospitals and physicians to fully disclose mistakes when they happen. An overwhelming majority of the surgeons polled said that they followed five out of eight practices for disclosing adverse surgical events that include explaining why the error occurred within 24 hours after an operation, showing concern, expressing regret and treating problems that result from the event. However, only 55 percent said that they had apologized to the patient or family members or talked about whether the mistake was preventable.

Disturbing medical malpractice cases

When North Carolina residents visit their doctor, they expect quality medical care. However, doctors are people, and they can make mistakes. These mistakes include leaving foreign objects in the body following a procedure, amputating the wrong limb and even misdiagnosing life-threatening diseases. Because doctor errors can occur, patients should be vigilant when it comes to their medical care.

One disturbing medical malpractice case that occurred was in West Virginia. A 73-year-old man was undergoing surgery for abdominal pain. However, doctors did not give him the right anesthesia, so he experienced anesthetic awareness during the entire surgery. This means that he was aware and in pain during the procedure. In another case, a New York fertility clinic gave a woman a stranger's sperm instead of her husband's. A DNA test after the birth showed that the child was of a different race than the parents.

Common medication errors that happen at home

For North Carolina residents who take medication on a daily basis, there is always a risk for an error. This can include anything from forgetting to take a drug needed to maintain blood pressure or using the wrong measuring device when doling out liquid medication. Even though these mistakes may sound simple, they can have a serious impact on a person's health.

One of the most common mistakes that people make when it comes to taking medication at home is that they fail to read the insert. This insert is full of information about potential side effects, the dose and how often the person should be taking the medication. Those who are taking new medication should fully read the insert or talk to the doctor or pharmacist if they do not understand something that is on the sheet.

How to track surgeon performance in North Carolina

When assessing the ability of a surgeon, it is important to focus on encouraging proper methods. However, new research says that it may be just as important to focus on what the surgeon does wrong to stop simple mistakes from becoming long-term bad habits. The study was born from a review of the Objective Structured Assessment of Technical Skills by a professor from the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine.

The study aims to address some of the shortcomings of the assessment and modify it to better serve residents. Research was done into how modifying this checklist and providing better feedback could help with shoulder surgeries done from the front, the back and the side. The shoulder was chosen because it is a common part of the body that surgeons work on.

Breast MRI techniques and diagnostic errors

North Carolina women who go in for breast cancer surgeries may be at greater risk of errors depending on the way they are administered MRIs prior to their operations. In June 2016, radiologists at a Boston hospital released a study revealing that the accuracy of MRI scans varied with the postures patients assumed inside imaging machinery. Scans performed on women who were lying face down were discovered to be less accurate than those taken with patients lying on their backs.

This study was small, and its authors said it should be conducted again with a larger sample size. Nonetheless, one contributor opined that a combined technique of scanning in multiple positions might be the best option. Currently, patients are often placed inside MRI machines in face-down postures to establish some degree of consistency between initial and follow-up assays. Experts believe this can cause notable distortion or displacement of the tumor and the healthy breast tissue alike.

Butler Daniel & Associates, P.L.L.C.

Butler Daniel & Associates, P.L.L.C.
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Wrightsville Beach, NC 28480

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