Prostate cancer is one of the most common cancers experienced by men in North Carolina and across the country. In order to determine the stage the cancer has reached, doctors use a PET scan for prostate-specific membrane antigen (PSMA). PSMA is an enzyme that is found in prostate cancer cells and in areas where the cancer has spread elsewhere in the body. It is very expressive and responsive to imaging, making it a target for PET scans that determine the current stage of the disease.
However, researchers have noted that using PSMA PET scans on their own could potentially lead to misdiagnoses with serious results for patients. There are benign tissues in the body that can also show increased visibility of the enzyme without the cancer having metastasized. These include areas in the bowels, kidney and salivary glands, but they can be confused with lymph nodes to which the cancer has spread. If a patient is misdiagnosed as a result of the scan, he could be subjected to extra therapy that is unnecessary and even harmful.
Researchers warned doctors about the potential for error, because these scans are frequently used to plan the next stage of treatment for prostate cancer patients. They said that the scans are still useful, but urged doctors to examine the results in conjunction with information about the precise area of concern. In a study of 407 patients, they found that benign tissue in ganglia could resemble lymph node metastases in almost all of the participants.
Cancer treatment is an area in which medical errors can be especially damaging. A missed diagnosis can mean that a person is vulnerable to the spread of cancer, while excessive treatment with powerful chemotherapy or radiation can also cause harm. A medical malpractice attorney can help patients with cancer who were misdiagnosed to pursue compensation for the harms suffered.