WHAT IS A FAILURE TO DIAGNOSE BREAST CANCER?
A failure to diagnose breast cancer occurs when a doctor or health care provider fails to properly and accurately take the steps in order to screen for or diagnose breast cancer. A delayed diagnosis occurs when these steps are not taken until later than showed have occurred allowing the disease to develop.
While standard cancer screening technology cannot identify all incidents of cancer, healthcare providers should utilize the available tools and know when to order further tests. They must interpret these tests accurately. They should ask the right questions to determine your symptoms and risks. A misread mammogram, testing blunder, or unordered test could cost a person’s life.
One in eight women in the United States will develop an invasive breast cancer during her lifetime. Each year, over 230,000 women are diagnosed with invasive breast cancer and nearly 40,000 women die. Breast cancer is the second most diagnosed cancer among women, the most common cancerous killer of women, and the most common reason for medical malpractice lawsuits.
While breast cancer is a dangerous disease that shatters lives and devastates families every day, a sad ending is not inevitable. When caught early, survival rates approach 100%. At least 2.5 million survivors live in America today. However, each lost day strengthens the cancer and weakens the body. If not found and treated quickly, the disease may become fatal.
WHAT IS BREAST CANCER AND WHAT CAUSES IT?
Breast cancer is an uncontrolled growth of cells in breast tissue. Although most common among women, men may also develop the disease. Left untreated, malignant breast cells will spread to other parts of the body. Breast cancer is always caused by a genetic abnormality. While some of these abnormalities are hereditary, 85-90% of these abnormalities occur as a result of aging.
While there are numerous types of breast cancer, there are two main types of breast cancer:
- Ductal Carcinoma. Ductal carcinoma begins in the milk ducts. Most breast cancer cases are ductal carcinoma.
- Lobular Carcinoma. Lobular carcinoma is cancer beginning in the lobules (milk glands).
The severity of breast cancer progression is divided into several stages. Stage 0 and Stage I cancer have an extremely high survival rate which approaches 100%. By Stage IV, the most advanced stage, survival rates plummet to 20% or less. As such, the most important factor for breast cancer treatment is an early diagnosis.
Treatment may vary depending upon the type of cancer, how far it has progressed, and the individual’s health.
WHO IS AT HIGHER RISK?
Several risk factors have been found to determine women who have the highest risk of developing breast cancer. However, the absence of risk factors does not mean that a woman will not develop breast cancer. Nonetheless, these factors should alert women and their healthcare professionals to be particularly vigilant of potential breast cancer.
- Older age. Most breast cancers are found in women 55 or older. Unfortunately, many doctors focus too much on this factor, so breast cancer in younger women is frequently undiagnosed.
- Family history. Breast cancer risk can double for women with close relatives diagnosed with breast cancer.
- Previous personal history of breast cancer. Breast cancer survivors are 3-4 times more likely to develop breast cancer again.
- Being overweight
- Lack of exercise
- Using hormone replacement therapy. Long-term use of HRT dramatically increases the chances of being diagnosed with breast cancer.
- Regular alcohol consumption
- Having dense breasts. This not only increases the chances of developing breast cancer, but also makes it harder to see on mammogram. These women are excellent candidates for MRI testing.
- Genetic factors. Certain genes, such as BRCA1 and BRCA2, have been shown to increase breast cancer risk.
- Previous treatment with radiation therapy to the breast/chest
- Women with dense breasts
SYMPTOMS OF BREAST CANCER
Breast cancer typically exhibits no symptoms in its earliest forms. Lumps can usually be seen on mammogram long before they can be seen or felt. The first apparent symptom is usually a lump in the breast or underarm that persists after the menstrual cycle. These lumps are typically painless, although some may cause a prickly sensation.
Other symptoms include, but are not limited to, the following:
- Swelling in the armpit
- Any change in size, contour, texture, or temperature of the breast
- A noticeable flattening or indentation on the breast
- A change in the nipple or unusual nipple discharge
- Marble-like area under the skin
- An area that is different from any other area on either breast.
HOW TO DIAGNOSE BREAST CANCER
Several tests are available to screen for abnormalities, investigate abnormalities, and monitor confirmed cases. Major tests include the following.
- Screening Mammogram. This is an x-ray of the breast. It is typically a routine screening for women who are not suspected of breast cancer. Although mammograms cannot diagnose breast cancer, they can identify abnormalities for further follow-up. Mammograms are unable to show a significant number of cancers. Both film and digital mammograms are available. Digital mammograms may be more effective for some women.
- Diagnostic Mammogram. A mammogram focusing upon an area suspected for breast cancer. Generally, more x-rays are taken than in a screening mammogram.
- Physical Exam. The physician will attempt to find physically evident symptoms, such as lumps, of breast cancer.
- Magnetic Resonance Imaging. MRIs utilize magnetic imaging to search for breast abnormalities. MRIs are more thorough and find most cancerous abnormalities missed by mammogram. However, it is more expensive, less widely available, and has more false positives. MRI may be an appropriate choice for high-risk women and women with implants or dense breasts.
- Biopsies take a portion of the suspected tissue and test it to determine if it is cancerous. Biopsies can determine if an abnormality is actually cancer. Although several methods are available, physicians usually select the least invasive effective method.
HOW A FAILURE TO DIAGNOSE BREAST CANCER MALPRACTICE CAN OCCUR
Doctors should always be thorough and listen to their patients while screening for breast cancer. Even if a screening mammogram is negative or a patient is not “high risk,” doctors should always take their patients’ complaints seriously. The doctor should always consider a patient’s risk factors. Any abnormality should be noted and investigated. Many cases, particularly among younger women, are missed because a doctor does not take a “low risk” patient’s complaints seriously.
While some incidents of breast cancer are either undetectable or cannot be seen through standard tests, oftentimes the healthcare provider may be at fault for failing to diagnose breast cancer. One of the most common reasons for a failure to diagnose breast cancer is a misread mammogram. These tests are rendered ineffective if they are not properly reviewed.
Some examples of how failures to diagnose malpractice occurs include the following:
- Failure to take a thorough personal and family history
- Failure to order a mammogram
- Ordering a screening mammogram when a diagnostic mammogram is appropriate
- Failure to perform a physical breast examination
- Failure to order appropriate testing, such as MRI imaging, for high risk patients
- Failure to properly read mammogram or MRI imaging
- Failure to adequately investigate suspicious findings
- Failure to take patient complaint’s seriously
- Dismissing the fears and complaints of younger women
- Improperly conducting mammograms and other tests
- Improperly performed biopsy (such as taking sample from wrong area)
- Errors in analyzing biopsy samples
- Failure to communicate with other healthcare providers
- Failure to refer to a specialist
- Failure to tell a patient about abnormal results
DID YOU SUFFER FROM A FAILURE TO DIAGNOSE OR A DELAYED DIAGNOSIS OF BREAST CANCER
Our firm has the background and experience to determine whether a failure to diagnose or delayed diagnosis of breast cancer has occurred. It is generally challenging to prove that any type of medical malpractice has occurred. You not only need to show that something went wrong, but also that the doctor failed to follow the “standard of care.”
In order to prove that medical malpractice has occurred, we develop a plan that gives you the best chance to discover the truth and get you the compensation you deserve. Our plans frequently include getting the medical records quickly and having those records reviewed by medical experts. If you believe that you have been the victim of a failure to diagnose breast cancer and our investigation supports that the doctor fell short of his or her responsibility, we can help you get the compensation you need and deserve to help offset your harms, losses, and damages.
Contact Our Failure to Diagnose Breast Cancer Attorneys for a Free Case Evaluation
If you or a loved one has suffered or died due to a failure to diagnose breast cancer, contact Gupta Law Group for a free consultation with a skilled and compassionate medical malpractice lawyer. Cases are taken on a contingency fee basis. You pay no fees unless we recover compensation for you.