Thursday, June 11, 2009

What You Can Do about Faulty Lab Results

The recent revelations about botched lab tests in relation to Quebec breast cancer patients has the public scratching their heads and those affected reeling.
The real question remains;
What can you do if you are affected and how can you prevent your test from being botched in the future?

In the case of the breast cancer tests that are the center of the controversy, it's important to understand that;

In 20 to 30 per cent, there are disagreements between labs and individuals on whether a result is negative or positive because of variables in technique and interpretation, said Jared Schwartz president of the College of American Pathologists, a world authority on lab quality control and accreditation.

"The problem is there is no gold standard anywhere on how you call a specific test positive or negative," Schwartz said, also co-chair of an international team that's developing universal guidelines on process and criteria that pathologists will use.-The Gazette

That's a pretty scary statement. I bet your doctor didn't tell you that little fact when you received your diagnosis and your treatment regimen.

Perhaps we should all be mindful of the Russian proverb and heed it's advice;
"doveryai, no proveryai" - Trust but verify.
And here's something we can all do as patients to take back a little control in our care-.

It's not such a foreign concept but it's something most patients don't bother doing.
"About 85 per cent of decisions that doctors make about the diagnosis and treatment of their patients are based on lab tests," said Nathalie Rodrigue, president of the Ordre professionnel des technologists médicaux du Québec." - -The Gazette
Now the government isn't saying which labs have screwed up and isn't unlikely to do so. All labs are not alike, some better and some worse.

In the case of a serious illness, I'd certainly pay for a second test out of my own pocket, regardless the cost and I'd send the sample to a top notch lab.

How to differentiate between the good and the sloppy?

There are standards.
The College of American Pathologists (CAP) does accredit labs that have achieved and maintain the highest possible standards.
"The CAP Laboratory Accreditation Program is an internationally recognized program and the only one of its kind that utilizes teams of practicing laboratory professionals as inspectors. Designed to go well beyond regulatory compliance, the program helps laboratories achieve the highest standards of excellence to positively impact patient care.

The program is based on rigorous accreditation standards that are translated into detailed and focused checklist questions. The checklists, which provide a quality practice blueprint for laboratories to follow, are used by the inspection teams as a guide to assess the overall management and operation of the laboratory." LINK

There are just four labs in Quebec that have attained this accreditation.

C.D.L Medical Laboratories Inc
5990 Chemin de la Cote des Neiges
Montreal, QC - H3S1Z5

Cirion Biopharma Research, Inc.
Clinical Laboratories
2121 Berlier St
Laval, QC - H7L 3M9

DiaTech Oncology
740 Dr Penfield Ave Ste 4200
Montreal, QC - H3A 1A4

St. Mary's Hospital Center
Main Laboratory
3830 Lacombe Avenue
Montreal, QC - H3T 1M5
For CAP accredited labs in your area, you can consult the CAP website for an easy to use lookup database.

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