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Mesothelioma often misdiagnosed as other forms of lung cancer

Specialists from New York University's Langone Medical Center contributed to research that achieved a promising breakthrough that could improve the diagnosis of mesothelioma. The research team identified a protein, BAP1, that could be used to distinguish mesothelioma from lung cancer.

The researchers looked at 45 tissue samples of non-small cell lung cancer and 35 samples of pleural mesothelioma. Lab tests of every lung cancer tumor revealed a normal level of BAP1. In the pleural mesothelioma tumor cells, however, over half of them lacked the presence of BAP1.

The lead researcher said that testing for BAP1 should become part of the protocol for testing potential lung cancer samples. He said that in the United States at least 10 percent of people with a lung cancer diagnosis have been misdiagnosed because their medical caregivers did not recognize the mesothelioma. Multiple reasons contribute to the frequency of misdiagnosis. A small tissue specimen could skew a lab result as could a needle biopsy that does not sample the tumor properly. A pathologist looking at a sample might not have the experience to identify mesothelioma, and sometimes insurance companies place restrictions on testing. Because of significant differences between lung cancer and mesothelioma, the researcher said that an accurate diagnosis was crucial. Otherwise, a patient could receive the wrong treatment.

An inaccurate diagnosis could cause a person harm because the real disease could go untreated. Misdiagnosis represents one potential form of medical malpractice along with surgical errors and medication mistakes. Someone whose condition worsens because of malpractice could seek help from an attorney. A number of legal standards must be met for a case to advance to a lawsuit, and an attorney could evaluate the person's medical records to see if negligence could be proven.

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