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Rate of misdiagnosis in breast cancer cases “disproportionate” in Ireland

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Data released by the Freedom of Information Act has shown that more than a quarter of all cancer misdiagnosis in Ireland were in the form of breast cancer.

The Irish Times reports on the “disproportionate” figure that is based on data collected from  between January 2004 and December 2011. In that time period, it was revealed that some 100 claims of alleged cancer misdiagnosis were received by the State Claims Agency.

Of that 100, a “disproportionate” 28 cases were related to breast cancer, which is the third-most common cancer in Ireland after skin and prostate cancer. There were five claims of misdiagnosis for prostate cancer, and only one for skin cancer.

On average, 10 percent of the 30,000 people diagnosed with cancer in Ireland annually have breast cancer. In 2009, more than 8,000 people were diagnosed with skin cancer, while there were more than 2,850 cases of prostate cancer. The figure was 2,766 for breast cancer, 2,271 for bowel cancer and 1,784 for lung cancer.

John Kennedy, consultant medical oncologist at St James’s Hospital in Dublin, attributed the high rate of misdiagnosis in breast cancer to the notion that women tend to be more vigilant about their health, and are more likely to visit a doctor in early stages of ailment as opposed to men. This, according to Kennedy, could therefore account for the higher level of breast cancer misdiagnosis.

Kennedy added that a “media frenzy” in the wake of high-profile breast cancer misdiagnosis cases in 2007 may have had more women fearing the same happened to them. Only time will be able to tell in those figures.

Eight specialist centres for breast cancer in Ireland as well as a reorganization of service would help create a lower rate of misdiagnosis in the future according to Kennedy. He added that internationally, even the best services still encounter a rate of two percent misdiagnosis.

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