Biopsies are an essential component of correctly diagnosing and treating a condition. While they are commonly used to help diagnose cancer, they can also be used to diagnose many other medical conditions. They also can be used to examine the status of existing conditions. Below, we will take a look at the different types of biopsies that are available, why a practitioner may fail to perform one and whether or not those actions are the basis for a medical malpractice claim. 

Read more: Can Misdiagnosis Create a Medical Malpractice Claim in Pennsylvania?

What is a Biopsy?

A biopsy is when a medical professional takes a sample of tissue from the patient’s body in order to examine it more closely. These tissue samples can be taken from a person’s liver, skin bones and kidney (to name a few). It’s important to note that not every biopsy is performed the same way. For example, if a patient is getting a bone biopsy, their doctor will make a small incision in the skin over the bone to insert a needle into the bone to remove the tissue. Depending on the size of tissue the doctor needs, the needle may either be very fine or large. Also, depending on the body part biopsied, the doctor may use other tools to help guide the biopsy needle. For example, when performing a kidney biopsy, the biopsy needle will often be directed by the guidance of an ultrasound or other imaging device. 

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How Do Doctors Determine When It’s Time to Perform a Biopsy?

A doctor will typically order a biopsy if a tissue abnormality is found after a patient undergoes imaging, such as a CT scan or mammogram. A common example of this would be if someone’s mammogram results show a lump or other type of mass that requires further examination. Simply put, a biopsy is usually performed when there’s an important question a doctor needs an answer to (such as whether or not a lump or mass is breast cancer). 

Consequences of Failing to Order a Biopsy

Because biopsies are the best way to confirm if cancer is present, the failure to perform one can have disastrous consequences, such as a delayed diagnosis or a failure to diagnose and treat a person’s cancer altogether. The failure to timely diagnose and treat a person’s cancer can lead to irreparable damage and tragically, a person’s premature and preventable death. 

As with all forms of medical malpractice, it must be established that your doctor was negligent in their handling of your care. In other words, you must prove that your doctor deviated from the standard of care another doctor of would have provided under similar circumstances. As such, a failure to perform a biopsy could stem from a doctor’s negligence in: 

  • Ignoring a new growth or mass or dismissing it as benign without testing
  • Ignoring signs and symptoms that are concerning for potential cancer
  • Failing to recommend cancer screening tests based upon patient risk factors for cancer
  • Not ordering necessary tests or referring the patient to a specialist

There also may be many “hands” involved in your biopsy. If abnormal tissue is found on your imaging report, the radiologist will typically send it over to your doctor for them to conduct a biopsy. Once your biopsy is taken, it will be sent to a histopathologist who will examine it. Prior to the examination, the technician or pathologist will cut the tissue sample into thin slices called histologic sections. These sections are stained with different dyes to help show different parts of the cell, which can identify cancer. Once the examination is complete, the pathologist will write a report and send it back to the doctor who originally performed or ordered the biopsy. Because there are so many people involved in this process, it’s important to have an experienced medical malpractice attorney on your side who can help determine where liability may exist. At Matzus Law, LLC, we have decades of experience handling the most complex medical malpractice claims. We will fight for your right to compensation. Call us today for a consultation. 

Read more: Delayed Diagnosis: How to Prove a Doctor Is at Fault

Contact a Pittsburgh Medical Malpractice Attorney for a Consultation About Your Failure to Perform a Biopsy Case in Pennsylvania

Were you or a loved one injured as a result of a doctor failing to order or perform a biopsy in Pennsylvania? Then you need to talk to an experienced medical malpractice lawyer as soon as possible for guidance on how to proceed. The Pittsburgh medical malpractice attorneys at Matzus Law, LLC are prepared to assist you with your legal claim. We represent victims of negligent surgeons, doctors, nurses, and pharmacists throughout Pennsylvania, including Pittsburgh, Butler, Cranberry, Greensburg and Washington. Call us today at (412) 206-5300 or fill out our online contact form to schedule a consultation. Our main office is located at 310 Grant Street, Suite 3210, Pittsburgh, PA 15219.

The articles on this blog are for informative purposes only and are no substitute for legal advice or an attorney-client relationship. If you are seeking legal advice, please contact our law firm directly.