Breast Cancer Misdiagnosis
Among women, breast cancer is the most commonly diagnosed cancer after skin cancer and the second leading cause of cancer-related deaths. Many of these deaths could be prevented with earlier detection. Doctors and other medical professionals often fail at critical early junctures to diagnose a patient’s breast cancer, often with tragic consequences.
Breast cancer is a malignant cell growth that starts in the breast, forming a tumor. This tumor generally develops within either the lobules (the milk producing glands) or the ducts (the tubes that carry milk from the lobules to the nipple) and can spread outward into the fatty tissue of the breast, the muscle of the chest wall, the lymph nodes beneath the arm, and beyond to the rest of the body. The most common indicator of breast cancer is a lump in the breast. However, a tumor can already be well developed before it can be felt, making regular mammogram screenings necessary to catch breast cancer in its early stages.
Early Detection is Critical
The odds of successfully treating breast cancer are directly related to the stage at which it is caught. According to the American Cancer Society, a stage I diagnosis cancer (still localized) has a 98 percent survival rate, while a cancer that has progressed to stage IV (spread well beyond the breast) has only a 16 percent survival rate. The American Cancer Society recommends that all women over the age of 40 complete both an annual mammogram and a breast examination by a medical professional.
Delay or Failure to Diagnose Breast Cancer
When a doctor fails to detect a patient’s breast cancer for a significant length of time, her chances of survival can be greatly reduced. Medical malpractice cases for misdiagnosis or failure to diagnose breast cancer often involve doctor error in one of the following situations:
- Failing to perform a breast exam on patient
- Failing to identify an existing lump during a breast exam
- Failing to respond to a patient’s voiced concern about a lump or symptoms in her breast
- Failing to administer a mammogram or biopsy on an identified lump
- Misreading a mammogram: failing to identify cancerous tumors after the administration of a mammogram or misidentifying visible lumps as benign cysts or growths
- Reassuring a patient that her lump is benign without administering appropriate tests to confirm this
- Failing to encourage patients to undergo necessary preventative screenings
In many cases, cancer that might have required a lumpectomy if caught during the early stages requires a mastectomy because diagnosis was delayed. In other cases, family or friends lose someone they love to breast cancer because of medical error or negligence.
Filing a Lawsuit
If you or someone you love has suffered injury due to breast cancer misdiagnosis, contact an experienced personal injury lawyer to learn more about your legal rights.