Pathologist's Role in Breast Cancer Treatment

11:53 PM, Jun 30, 2011   |    comments
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BUFFALO, NY -- Getting a breast cancer diagnosis can be devastating.  Sometimes a patient is mis-diagnosed and given the wrong treatment, even an unnecessary surgery.

Last October, Barbara Bartholomew got her annual mammogram and was told she had breast cancer.  She said her experience working in the Niagara County Health Department taught her that getting a second opinion is important.  So she went to Roswell Park for that.

The pathologists there studied her films and lab work and found a discrepancy.  But to be safe, surgeons removed the tumor anyway, examined it, and confirmed what they suspected that it was not cancerous.  Barbara recently met the pathologist who made discovery, Dr. Helena Hwang, and thanked her.

"I went through a lot of emotional things-- mostly-- how do I tell my children.  We're facing it again.  But fortunately, we got a good turn around, and i'm just lovin' life right now," said Bartholomew.

"It's not often that we get that kind of feedback so when we do receive this feedback it is very satisfying," said Dr. Hwang.

Pathologists are the ones who decide the type of cancer, the stage, and other important details that help determine what kind of treatment a patient will receive.

Again, misdiagnosis does not happen very often.  But Roswell Park breast cancer pathologists tell us that approximately half of their work is from patients coming to them to get a second opinion.

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