Breast Cancer Misdiagnosis Lawyer Serving Maryland & Washington, DC
After skin cancer, breast cancer is the most common cancer among women in the United States. According to the American Cancer Society, a woman has a 12 percent risk of developing breast cancer sometime in her life—this risk translates to a one in eight chance she will develop breast cancer.
American Cancer Society breast cancer estimates for 2018 are:
- About 266,120 new cases of invasive breast cancer will be diagnosed in women.
- About 63,960 new cases of carcinoma in situ (CIS) will be diagnosed (CIS is non-invasive and is the earliest form of breast cancer).
- About 40,920 women will die from breast cancer.
Unfortunately, the failure to diagnose breast cancer happens all too often. Sometimes that is due to the difficulty of detection. But, sometimes medical professionals miss warning signs that they should have seen, resulting in a late diagnosis that ends in tragedy.
When a doctor or other healthcare provider fails to follow the standard of care in diagnosing a patient’s breast cancer, that doctor or provider may be liable for medical malpractice.
What Is Breast Cancer?
According to the American Cancer Society, breast cancer starts when cells within the breast grow out of control. The cells form a lump that can be felt or discovered on a mammogram. Breast cancer occurs mostly in women, although men can get the disease too. Breast cancer spreads when it enters the lymph nodes or bloodstream, both of which carry the cancer to other parts of the body.
Breast Cancer Misdiagnosis
The first line of defense in screening for breast cancer is a mammogram. Misreading of a mammogram is where misdiagnosis of breast cancer often starts. Yet, a recent study showed that women have an unrealistic expectation of mammograms. Forty-four percent of the women studied believed that screening mammography had a sensitivity of 100 percent and therefore found all breast cancers. In fact, the reliability of such tests depends on radiologists—making the tests highly sensitive to human error.
A misdiagnosis or an incorrect diagnosis can delay critical treatments, worsen the disease, or even cause death. The major causes of missed or delayed cancer diagnosis can include:
- A cancerous lesion missed during a biopsy.
- A cancerous mass incorrectly diagnosed as non-cancerous.
- The failure to order proper testing.
- A cancerous tumor that is incorrectly classified as to type or incorrectly graded as to aggressiveness.
- Specimens that are improperly handled, read or interpreted.
- The failure to adequately screen increased risk patients.
- The failure to understand patient’s complaints.
Radiologists often have to analyze as many as 100 medical images every day. In addition, they must produce a comprehensive diagnostic report for each one. Dealing with doctors and patients adds to their stress. Misinterpreting a mammogram is an easy and unfortunate mistake made by radiologists who are simply overworked and overwhelmed. Upcoming advances in medical technology may help radiologists to focus on patient care—until that happens, patients must be their own advocate and demand an accurate diagnosis.
Patients must trust their gut instinct when it comes to their health. If you feel something isn’t right yet the radiologist says the mammogram is fine, follow up with a second opinion. Should the results change and confirm what you suspected in the first place—consider consulting an attorney.
Risks Associated with Mammograms
There are risks associated with any medical tests—two key risks associated with mammograms—in addition to the dose of radiation itself—are false positive results and overtreatment.
False Positive Results
False positive results occur when a doctor sees something he thinks is cancer but it is not. The false positive results lead to more time-consuming tests, added expense, and increased anxiety.
Overtreatment results from overdiagnosis. Overdiagnosis occurs when a doctor finds something that:
- Could become cancer
- A cancer that won’t get any larger or any worse
- Could go away on its own
Doctors then begin overtreatment—treatments a patient doesn’t really need, including radiation therapy. The patient may experience unpleasant side effects due to the unnecessary treatments.
Mammography Quality Standards Act (MQSA)
The Mammography Quality Standards Act (MQSA), administered by the U.S. Food & Drug Administration, requires mammography facilities to send each patient a written summary of the mammography report in lay terms—with no heavy medical jargon and easy to comprehend. The facility is required to send the written summary within 30 days of the mammogram.
For mammograms with results considered “suspicious,” or “highly suggestive of malignancy,” the MQSA requires the facility to make every reasonable attempt to communicate this information with the patient and the referring physician, as soon as possible. While verbal communication is a faster form of communication, a written summary is still required.
Washington, D.C., Breast Cancer Misdiagnosis Lawyer
The Abelson Law Firm represents victims and their families seeking compensation for a doctor’s misdiagnosis or medical mistake involving a breast cancer diagnosis. If you or a family member has suffered because of a doctor’s missed breast cancer diagnosis, you may be able to recover your past and future medical expenses, lost income, and compensation for your pain and suffering, diminished quality of life, reduced lifespan, disability, and more.
Breast cancer affects women (and some men) of all demographics and most of us know at least one person affected by the disease. It is an especially frightening cancer due to the chance of metastasis—a term for the spread of cancer. The risk of metastasis is associated with the size of the tumor and extent of spread at the time of diagnosis. Breast cancer is most likely to spread to such areas as the liver and brain. A misdiagnosis leads not only to a delay in treatment but possibly to metastasis of the disease to other parts of the body.
If you suspect your breast cancer has been misdiagnosed, contact the experienced medical malpractice practice at The Abelson Law Firm to discuss your case. After careful review of your case, we can help you determine your best options. Contact us today for a no-cost evaluation. The Abelson Law Firm proudly serves the areas of Maryland and Washington, D.C. We are standing by to help you fight for justice. Having breast cancer is scary enough without having to deal with a misdiagnosis. Let us focus on your case while you focus on your health. Call us at (202) 331-0600 or write to us using our contact form.