Philadelphia Breast Cancer Misdiagnosis Lawyer
Breast cancer is the second leading cause of death in American women; estimates suggest that the disease will claim the lives of one out of every 37 women in the U.S. Although the annual mortality rate declined from the late 1980s through 2007, that rate has held steady since then in women under 50. Older women are making a little better progress, thanks possibly to new screening technologies, better awareness and new courses of treatment. All told, over 3.1 million breast cancer survivors live in the U.S.
The American Cancer Society predicts that an over 250,000 new cases of invasive breast cancer will be diagnosed in next year. Sadly, 40,610 women are expected to succumb to the condition, as breast cancer is the second leading cancer-related cause of death for women.
Many deaths could be prevented through early diagnosis, but standard screenings sometimes fail to catch symptoms.
Often, misdiagnosis results merely from the limited visibility of symptoms in the early stages of the disease, but occasionally, it can be directly attributed to negligence among health care professionals. In such situations, it is often in the victim’s best interest to seek compensation via a medical malpractice lawsuit.
Symptoms of Breast Cancer
The symptoms of breast cancer can vary somewhat from one patient to the next, but nearly all sufferers experience identifiable lumps or masses in their breast tissue. Lumps are usually painless, but may come accompanied by a prickling sensation. Patients may also observe:
- Breast pain
- Discharge from the nipples that is not breast milk
- Changes in the nipple’s appearance
- Skin swelling or redness of the breasts
Mammograms and Delayed Diagnosis
The mammogram is a key test used to identify breast cancer. During a typical mammogram, a technician flattens the breasts against a machine’s plates to obtain a few clear pictures. These images can be used to identify symptoms not visible to the naked eye.
Unfortunately, not all breast cancer can immediately be identified in a screening mammogram. If a medical professional detects a mass in the breast but receives negative results during a follow-up mammogram, he or she must then make the difficult decision as to whether to continue with further testing. Failing to follow up with a biopsy or other tests could place the patient at considerable risk.
Sometimes, clinicians detect masses but misread the results of mammograms or other tests. They may conclude that the patient is cancer-free and fail to move forward with a biopsy. This is particularly common among young breast cancer sufferers; physicians assume that patients below a certain age are simply too young to have cancer. This false confidence could result in patients not being diagnosed until well after they could have pursued early and more effective treatment measures.
Why Does Cancer Misdiagnosis Occur?
The reasons for delayed diagnosis are clear: clinicians fail to spot lumps in the breast tissue, or, upon noting such symptoms, neglect to follow up with further tests or treatment. Misdiagnosis is more surprising, however. Incorrect diagnoses typically occur at early stages, when the symptoms are difficult to identify. In a recent American Medical Association study involving 115 United States pathologists, subjects were only able to correctly identify precancerous cells in half of their efforts — little better than a coin flip. The study found that 13 percent of ductal carcinoma in situ (an early form of breast cancer) cases were identified as less serious.
The symptoms of breast cancer sometimes resemble mastitis, a form of inflammation typically caused by infection. Misdiagnosis of mastitis is particularly common among young breast cancer sufferers. Breast cancer may also be mistaken for fibroadenoma, non-cancerous tumors common in adolescents and young women.
The Devastating Impact of Misdiagnosis and Delayed Diagnosis
Breast cancer is surprisingly treatable, with many women living cancer-free for years, even decades after entering remission. Success relies, however, on catching the condition as early as possible. According to the American Cancer Society, the five-year survival rate for women with stage 0 or I breast cancer is nearly 100 percent. At stage II, the survival rate drops to 93 percent, and at stage III, it drops again to 72 percent. Sadly, the survival rate is just 22 percent for those with stage IV breast cancer.
Clearly, early diagnosis makes a huge difference. Even a delay of just a few weeks can spell the difference between easy recovery and years of suffering — or the difference between life and death.
Contact our Cancer Misdiagnosis Lawyers
Many women who have suffered misdiagnosis (and loved ones of women who have died due to diagnosis issues) have successfully pursued legal action against negligent individuals and organizations. At the 47th Annual Clinical Meeting of the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, Dr. Kenneth Kern referred to breast cancer as the most frequent diagnosis leading to medical malpractice litigation. Successful lawsuits may garner compensation for medical expenses, pain and suffering, loss of income, and, in wrongful death cases, loss of consortium.
Do you suspect that misdiagnosis may have been responsible for the severity of your current breast cancer, or for a loved one’s cancer-related death? You deserve assertive legal support from a trusted Philadelphia medical malpractice attorney. The team at Rosenbaum & Associates can help you obtain compensation for your suffering. Call 1-800-7-LEGAL-7 at your earliest convenience to schedule a free case consultation.