There are two errors that doctors are most prone to making that may delay the detection of a female patient’s breast cancer – failing to recommend diagnostic tests to rule out cancer when a lump is felt in the breast and misreading a mammogram. Should a doctor make one of these mistakes and thereby delays the detection of the cancer until it metastasizes, the woman may have a lawsuit for medical malpractice. The first error made by doctors is not to order a diagnostic test when a woman indicates that she noticed a mass in the course of a self-conducted breast examination or the doctor finds the mass while performing a routine clinical breast examination. Certain doctors will tell the woman that this is just a noncancerous cyst, commonly if she is younger than 40 and has no family history of breast cancer.
Regrettably, while most new instances of breast cancer occur in women older than 50, younger females can, and are, diagnosed with breast cancer every day. Further, it is not possible to rule out the existence of cancer just by conducting a clinical breast examination. For this reason a doctor ought to order diagnostic testing so as to determine if the mass is cancerous. Diagnostic tests the physician can order include a mammogram, a biopsy or an aspiration. Should the woman actually have breast cancer, not ordering diagnostic testing can result in the growth and spread of the cancer.
The other error made by doctors is to incorrectly interpret a mammogram. Doctors use mammograms to visualize structures in the breast that could be cancerous. The mammogram makes pictures of the inside of the breast by using x-rays of the patient’s compressed breast. The resulting images are then examined by doctors for the existence of abnormalities that could be cancerous.
Unfortunately, physicians sometimes miss what is literally in front of their eyes. Sometimes physicians overlook an abnormality that turns up in the mammogram. Other times, doctors wrongly diagnose an abnormal structure or change as harmless without recommending further tests like a biopsy to rule out cancer.
Either of the errors might result in a delay in the detection of the woman’s breast cancer. The longer the detection of breast cancer is delayed, the more likely it is that the cancer will spread and reach an advanced stage. When the cancer becomes advanced, the treatment possibilities for the patient are reduced. In addition, her 5-year survival rate, the likelihood she has of surviving the cancer for 5 years or more, even with treatment, diminishes drastically.
At Stage III, it is approximately 55%. By Stage IV, it can be as low as 20%. If the cancer had been detected early, the 5-year survival rate would have been over 80 percent, perhaps even above ninety five percent if it had been detected early enough.
Medical errors may have deadly effects. This is especially so for individuals with cancer. The delay in diagnosis might lead to the need for a mastectomy, limited treatment possibilities, and in some cases, might be fatal. Under such circumstances, mistakes like those described above might constitute medical malpractice. Plaintiffs only have a limited amount of time to pursue a medical malpractice case. Waiting beyond that time will forever bar the plaintiff from succeeding on the claim and from recovering.. Thus, if you suspect that you or a family member have been the victim of medical malpractice, you should contact an attorney immediately.