Wrong cancer diagnosis scares Valley woman

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By Jim Carr By Jim Carr

“Health is everything," Sue Raney said. "If you don't have your health, it makes life very difficult."

So to stay healthy, she said she exercises daily and sees her doctor regularly.

“I went for my annual mammogram that was in October,” Raney said.

When her mammogram results came back, she was a little worried.

“The first one came back and said that I needed additional testing,” she explained.

Although Raney was concerned as to why she needed more testing, her fears were relieved when her doctor's office contacted her again.

“On November 7th I received another update on the same mammogram saying that everything was fine,” Raney said.

It was good news because the second doctor's notice indicated her exam was "benign" with “no evidence of cancer."

Raney said she did not want to jump for joy quite yet so she called the facility where her mammogram was performed, AZ-Tech Radiology, to find out why there were two different results.

“I was told over the phone that the radiologist is from New York and he was using New York guidelines,” she explained. “Under New York guidelines I needed additional testing, under Arizona guidelines I did not.”

Raney figured cancer was cancer and it should not matter what state you're in.

She decided to get a third opinion. After additional testing and films, Raney found out she did in fact have breast cancer in both of her breasts.

Raney said the explanation AZ-Tech Radiology gave her about the two different state guidelines did not sit well with her.

“It's very scary how many women are out there walking around thinking that they are OK and they are not,” Raney said.

She contacted 3 On Your Side and we talked to Dr. Leslie Welk, the director of the Laura Dreier Breast Center at Banner Good Samaritan Hospital.

Welk told us there is only one guideline for determining cancer, and it does not vary from state to state.

“If you had a double-read and one person called it negative and the other person said, ‘No, I think we should bring her back and look some more,' that's not particularly surprising and that doesn't necessarily speak to the quality of either reader," Welk told 3 On Your Side. "But for her to be told it's because one person was following one state's guidelines and the other person was following another state's guidelines, it's just incorrect.”

Welk went on to say that mammography is federally regulated and the reversal of a positive read for cancer is odd because physicians usually prefer to err on the side of caution.

“I think that would be very uncommon for that to happen,” Welk said.

Matthew Hum is an attorney for AZ-Tech and said they follow federally mandated regulations, and that the explanation that Raney says she was given was perhaps just a misunderstanding.

“It's a very serious issue," Hum said. "Mammography is a very serious practice of medicine, it's highly regulated."

He did acknowledge that handling two different reads -- one with possible cancer, the other one not -- is delicate.

“You don't want to expose a patient to too much radiation that would be too harmful,” he explained. “But then you don't want to call them back for a diagnosis and then put them through an emotional rollercoaster when it isn't necessary. It's hard to get it right every time.”

Hum says AZ-Tech is making sure to prevent something like Raney's experience from ever repeating with other patients.

“We’re doing everything we can internally to learn and hopefully in the future keep these kinds of mistakes from happening,” he told 3 On Your Side.

Raney said she hopes everyone can learn from her ordeal, and she is glad she continued to ask questions like she did.

“I just want to get the story out," she said. "I just think it's important for other women out there to be informed as much as possible.”

Raney is undergoing cancer treatment.

The attorney representing AZ-Tech is supposed to let us know the results of that internal investigation.