Thousands Diagnosed in Icelandic Blood Cancer Study

doctor nurse hospital health

More than 3,600 people have been diagnosed with pre-stage myeloma in an Icelandic study involving blood screening, Vísir reports. Nearly 60 entered drug treatment as a result, which has been effective. The European Research Council has decided to support the research program with a grant of €2 million [ISK 285 million; $2.2 million], enabling the study to continue.

Myeloma is an incurable type of blood cancer that develops from bone marrow cells. Patients’ outlook is generally better when it is diagnosed early. In the autumn of 2016, a national campaign was launched in Iceland to screen for the disease; a collaboration between the University of Iceland, the National University Hospital, and the Icelandic Cancer Society. The aim of the study is to investigate the effects of screening for pre-stage myeloma, to investigate the causes and consequences of the disease, and to improve the lives of those diagnosed with myeloma and search for a possible cure.

More than 75,000 samples have been screened in the study, diagnosing more than 3,600 people with pre-stage myeloma, and almost 300 with advanced myeloma. Those with advanced myeloma have been invited to participate in drug trials with the aim of preventing the progression of the disease.

Effective drug treatment of precursors

Sigurður Yngvi Kristinsson, professor of blood diseases at the University of Iceland’s School of Medicine and a specialist at the National University Hospital, is the recipient of the European Research Council grant. “This is a great recognition for me and the whole research team and the good work that we have been doing lately, and, of course, it enables us to continue researching myeloma and its precursors,” he stated.

“By searching carefully, we find people who are on the verge of developing myeloma,” Sigurður Yngvi explained. “They have what is called smouldering myeloma and are at great risk of that developing into myeloma. And we have been able to intervene before they get myeloma and give them drug treatment, and have nearly 60 people in drug treatment now and some have completed two years of drug treatment with great success, and that is perhaps the biggest milestone.”

Death of a 24-year Old of Cancer Reported to the Directorate of Health

Krabbameinsfélagið

The relatives of a 24 year old woman who died three years ago have reported her death to the Director of Health. The woman had been screened for cervical cancer at the Icelandic Cancer Society in 2013 and not notified of cell changes indicating cervical cancer. The lawyer handling the damage claim against the Icelandic Cancer Society is looking into 25 cases.

Three cases have been reported to the Director of health after mistakes during the testing process were discovered. The lawyer handling the damage claim, Sævar Þór Jónsson, is looking into 25 more cases where test analysis might have been mishandled. He says another comparable case will probably be reported to the Director of Health today, a woman who wasn’t notified of cell changes after her test in 2016. She later fell ill and was found to have incurable cancer. Sævar says there are indications that mistakes were made in sample analysis for years and the culprit is the Cancer Society’s operations, not unique employees.

Last month, a woman who was screened for cervical cancer in 2018 was found to have incurable cancer that might have been prevented had she been diagnosed earlier. Since then, the Cancer Society has been working on reexamining samples from 6,000 women. More than sixty women have been called in for further examination based on the revised test results. The Cancer Society issued a statement claiming the mistakes could be traced to one employee who had already resigned by the time the results of their mistakes were discovered. Since then, the Cancer Society’s practices have been under scrutiny. The Icelandic Cancer Society is a non-governmental organisation that has been conducting cervical cancer screenings since 1964. They receive 334 million ISK annually from the government to run the screenings.

Two years ago, a committee was formed to consider the future organisation of cancer screenings. They found that legislation on the issue needed to be more precise and that changes should be made. The healthcare authorities’ contract with the Icelandic Cancer Society is up at the end of the year, and from then on, cervical cancer screenings will be performed in local healthcare clinics and breast examinations at the National University Hospital of Iceland.

Retesting Needed After Cancer Screening Misdiagnosis

Krabbameinsfélagið

The Icelandic Cancer Society has reexamined 6,000 cancer screening tests after it was revealed that a sample was misdiagnosed in 2018, RÚV reports. The woman whose test was misdiagnosed has incurable cervical cancer. Forty-five women have been asked to return to the clinic for further testing as a result, but the Cancer Society says that the misdiagnosis was an isolated incident and the individuals who have been called back in do not have such serious cases.

In the case of the woman whose sample was misdiagnosed, the test she took in 2018 should have detected cellular changes that indicate cancer. The Cancer Society issued a statement about the misdiagnosis, explaining that the employee who examined her sample had just returned to work from sick leave and it’s possible, although unconfirmed, that the employee‘s poor health contributed to the error in diagnosis. The employee resigned of their own volition some time ago.

The Cancer Society has since conducted a review of all the samples that the former employee examined. Some of the samples have been determined to warrant further analysis, but none of them are of such a serious nature.

Ninety per cent of cancers can be detected through regular screening, the Cancer Society maintains, but it does happen that cellular changes are sometimes not detected in screenings. This may be due to misdiagnosis, or it may be that the cancer develops within a short period of time. “A misdiagnosis does not automatically mean that there has been a mistake made,” reads the Cancer Society statement. The clinic also said that new equipment was put into use last year specifically to reduce the risk of human error in sample analysis and diagnosis and that ten per cent of all samples taken at the clinic are also reviewed by two different staff members.