Expert second opinion improves reliability of melanoma diagnoses

Source: 7th Space, October 2019

Los Angeles – Getting a reliable diagnosis of melanoma can be a significant challenge for pathologists. The diagnosis relies on a pathologist’s visual assessment of biopsy material on microscopic slides, which can often be subjective. Of all pathology fields, analyzing biopsies for skin lesions and cancers has one of the highest rates of diagnostic errors, which can affect millions of people each year.

Now, a new study led by UCLA researchers, have found that obtaining a second opinion from pathologists who are board certified or have fellowship training in dermatopathology can help improve the accuracy and reliability of diagnosing melanoma, one of the deadliest and most aggressive forms of skin cancer.

“A diagnosis is the building block on which all other medical treatment is based,” said Dr. Joann Elmore, a professor of medicine at the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA and researcher at the UCLA Jonsson Comprehensive Cancer Center. “On the other end of these biopsies are real patients: patients answering the late-night, anxiety-inducing phone calls when we inform them of their diagnosis; patients undergoing invasive surgeries; patients weighing their next clinical steps. All patients deserve an accurate diagnosis. Unfortunately the evaluation and diagnosis of skin biopsy specimens is challenging with a lot of variability among physicians.”

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