Specialists want higher breast-cancer standards
Published Thursday, December 17, 2009 9:19AM EST
Quebec's medical specialists have weighed in on the breast cancer testing controversy, calling on Quebec to standardize its cancer screening methods.
Gaetan Barrette, head of the Quebec Association of Medical Specialists, told a news conference Thursday that a recent provincial review of more than 2,800 cancer tests has exposed some weaknesses.
Pathologists use two hormone tests on cancer patients to decide on treatment.
One of the methods is internationally recognized as being more accurate, while the other procedure has fallen by the wayside.
But Barrette says both techniques are still used in Quebec, and he adds that it's not clear which labs are performing which method.
Quebec has promised new standards by March but Barrette is calling for immediate action.
"Why is it that we cannot sit today and implement the highest standard that does exist which is the one per cent threshold for hormonal receptors?" Barrette told CTV's Annie DeMelt.
Also on Thursday, specialists said they support the province's review of 2,856 breast-cancer tests.
The analysis was ordered by Health Minister Yves Bolduc following a startling report in May by the Quebec Association of Pathologists.
The pathologists' report had suggested that flawed breast cancer tests may have resulted in hundreds of women receiving the wrong cancer treatments. The study said that between 15 and 30 per cent of tests might have been botched but the province's review contradicted those findings.
The government report, released on Wednesday, found error rates of between 0.6 per cent and 6.2 per cent from among the cancer tests that were re-done by a lab in Seattle.
The review also found that 39 women did not receive proper treatment - five of them died.
Barrette, who had initially backed the pathologists' study, said Thursday that the province's review was sound.
He added that the standards used for re-testing need to be applied to all cancer screening procedures in Quebec.
The specialists also say that there's no need for women to worry about the results, and that they should consult their doctors if they have any questions about testing.