Delayed Cancer Diagnosis

One of the most common types of medical malpractice cases is misdiagnosis or delayed diagnosis of cancer. This is particularly true of breast cancer, which, according to various reports, represents the largest segment of medical malpractice lawsuits in the U.S. One reason for this is the fact that breast cancer is so common relative to other forms of cancer. Breast cancer is the most common type of cancer among women in the U.S. and the leading cause of death for women ages 40 to 55. Despite this, many women who develop breast cancer and could be treated are denied the opportunity when physicians negligently fail to diagnose their condition until it is too late. The result of this negligence is often the loss of treatment options and/or the reduced chance of survival. The following are examples of some of the more common acts of negligence by physicians in failing to timely diagnose and/or treat breast cancer:

  • Failing to order a mammogram, misinterpreting a mammogram, or otherwise failing to react to mammogram findings
  • Relying upon mammography in place of a physical breast examination
  • Failing to perform a breast examination which would have identified an obvious tumor
  • Failing to identify a palpable lump during a breast examination
  • Diagnosing a breast infection instead of a cancerous tumor
  • Diagnosing a tumor as benign and failing to perform a biopsy
  • Disregarding a history of sharp pain in the breast or signs of retraction
  • Failing to determine the cause of nipple discharge
  • Relying upon negative aspiration biopsy
  • Failing to order additional radiological tests, a biopsy, or ultrasound when appropriate
  • Failing to communicate with the patient

When a diagnosis of cancer is made, the physician examines the affected tissue and identifies the type of cancer by the microscopic appearance of the cells. The doctor then classifies the cancer according to how advanced it is — otherwise known as staging. Cancer treatments vary widely depending upon the type of cancer and its stage. The probability that breast cancer will recur in a patient is directly related to the stage of the malignancy. If breast cancer is detected and addressed before the cancer has spread to any lymph nodes, the chances of survival are significantly better than otherwise. As such, any undue delay in diagnosing or treating breast cancer can have devastating consequences.

 


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