"But I had my medical test, and got my `happy
gram'... How can I have cancer?"
12 million Americans are misdiagnosed
every year. Oftentimes, it is up to the patient and
their family members to follow their instincts to get
to a correct diagnosis. What would have happened
if Chiqeeta had not followed through with her in-
stincts and knowledge of her own body? Upon her
diagnosis for her aggressive breast cancer, it may
have been too late to give her a chance of survival.
A false negative is a medical test result that
indicates a person does not have a disease, or con-
dition when the person actually does have it, ac-
cording to the National Institute of Health (NIH).
False negative test results can occur in many differ-
ent medical tests, from tests for pregnancy, tuber-
culosis or Lyme disease to tests for the presence of
drugs or alcohol in the body. Conversely, a false pos-
itive test result indicates that a person has a specific
disease or condition when the person actually does
not have it. Both a false negative and a false positive
can lead to a wrong diagnosis, a critical delay in the
right treatment for the right disease, and in some
cases even death.
"A false negative is when a test reveals fa-
vorable news that contradicts empirical evidence.
Conversely, a false positive occurs when an incor-
rect unfavorable condition is reported. One might
assume that results from a million-dollar piece of
equipment would represent an authoritative con-
clusion. Quality of the imaging coils put around
the body part being scanned and the computer
programs used to control the imaging and to ana-
lyze the images are important. But perfectly tuned
equipment is only as reliable as the person who
views the images and prepares the report. Unless
it is of considerable volume, a mass detected on an
x-ray, MRI, or CT scan is often a dot requiring a judg-
ment call. Determining whether a dot is an anoma-
ly depends upon the skill, experience and alertness
of the technician." ~Kevin RR Williams, www.clini-
In Chiqeeta's case, the wrong (and yet stand-
ard) medical screening tool was used to detect her
cancer. This is a perfect example of how medical
technology can fail. However, in the world of cancer
(where screening is not perfect) some screening is
better than no screening. Keep the mammogram,
breast self-exam, and other screening tools such
as a colonoscopy (the only cancer screening tool
that can stop cancer before it starts through the re-
moval of pre-cancerous polyps) on your calendar.
However, regardless of the consideration of the re-
sults, listen to your body and be certain that you are
comfortable and secure in your health. If the lump
doesn't go away and seems to be changing, it may
not be just a cyst--whether it is in your breast or
elsewhere on your body. If you've been told that
everything okay, but the symptoms haven't gone
away...follow-up and keep speaking up until you
have a diagnosis you feel confident is the right one.
We all need to be cognizant of what we
do to protect and support our healthy body every
day--including our dream instincts! We are all busy
individuals, but your health is always priority one.
Your survival may depend on finding a doctor (such
as Dr. Kelly) who is aware of the most up-to-date
research and technologies in medicine. If Chiqeeta
had not been vigilant in her medical care, she might
not have lived to tell her story.
Written by Joni Aldrich, Pulitzer prize nominated
author, speaker, radio program host and produc-
er, cancer, caregiving, and patient safety advocate.
Contributions by Graham Whiteside, Vice President
of Sales and Marketing SIMnext LLC, and Chris Jer-
ry, founder and CEO of The Emily Jerry Foundation
tional patient safety advocate.