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Skin cancer diagnosis and visual screening

Dec 16, 2015 | Failure to Diagnose

Medical research shows that New York residents may not have reason to get a visual skin cancer screening. Most skin cancers are nonfatal, but 74,000 Americans are estimated to receive a diagnosis of melanoma in 2015, according to the National Cancer Institute, and more than 9,900 patients are expected to die in 2015 as a result of the disease. The U.S. Preventative Services Task Force released a statement on skin cancer screening in adults without symptoms.

The USPSTF notes that it prioritized outcomes for melanoma as it created the statement. According to a systematic review, the organization found that there is not sufficient evidence to determine the balance of benefits and harms done by a full-body visual skin exam. This finding is related to melanoma and nonmelanoma skin cancer, also known as basal and squamous cell carcinomas. The task force urged patients to speak with their doctors until research on the harms and benefits of visual screening is further evaluated.

The task force discovered that current research on the outcomes of full-body visual skin cancer screening is insufficient. Visual skin cancer screenings can lead to such issues as misdiagnosis, overdiagnosis and averse results from unnecessary cosmetic procedures, such as scarring after surgery. The findings are an update to a 2009 statement, which similarly found insufficient evidence to assess the harms of screening versus the benefits. The task force did not include patient self-screening advice.

In some cases, improper screening procedures can result in a delayed diagnosis or even the failure to diagnose cancer. As a result, treatment may be delayed and the progression of the disease made worse. Patients who have been harmed in this manner may wish to discuss their options for seeking recourse with a medical malpractice attorney.