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Misdiagnosed Breast Cancer: Was It Medical Malpractice?

Nearly every life is touched in some way by breast cancer, and while the malignancy can be an aggressive killer, radical advances in medical science allow many women to continue living full lives even after developing the disease.

Perhaps more important than innovative therapies like chemo and radiation is receiving an early, accurate diagnosis. A correct diagnosis, very literally, can be a matter of life and death. That’s why we rely so heavily on the skills and care of medical professionals. But sometimes, our trust is violated.

Breast Cancer Misdiagnosis Lawsuits

Every year, tens of thousands of patients receive a breast cancer misdiagnosis. Some people are incorrectly told that their troubling symptoms are caused by a benign condition, that the lump they found is just a fibroadenoma or any number of the common breast changes that occur over time.

Others will learn with shock that they, too, have cancer, and like so many women past and future will require invasive surgeries or crippling therapies. But they don’t; they were misdiagnosed and those therapies, which proved ineffective, were also completely unnecessary.

Not all of these people have been made victim by negligent physicians, but some have. Meanwhile, families look on helplessly as their loved ones suffer and medical bills pile up. Medical negligence is a tragedy, but one that also offers hope. Many women who receive a cancer misdiagnosis can pursue justice and fair compensation in a medical malpractice lawsuit.

See related reading about Medical Malpractice: Filing A Lawsuit In New York

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Was My Doctor Negligent?

That question lies at the heart of every viable medical malpractice claim, but without conducting a thorough investigation, we can’t answer it.

When a doctor’s actions or inactions fall below their profession’s standard, and a patient is harmed, they have every right to hold their physician accountable.

Some mistakes are truly innocent, and even the brightest, most educated doctors fail to spot every growing tumor. But no matter their skill, or level of education, or practical experience, every medical professional is held to a standard. As patients, we have a legal right to be treated according to that standard.

5 Examples Of Medical Negligence: Diagnosing Breast Cancer

To develop a medical negligence lawsuit, Banville Law’s experienced attorneys rely on the opinions of medical experts. Standards of care can vary, but few physicians aren’t held to basic principles, like:

  1. gathering a wealth of evidence, rather than diagnosing a patient based on the results of a single test
  2. referring patients to a specialist when appropriate
  3. conducting tests properly, the first time
  4. attending to all of a patient’s complaints and symptoms, rather than dismissing them
  5. continuing patients on a course of treatment that has absolutely no effect

Most medical malpractice claims are filed against general practitioners, ones who fail to notice the early signs of breast cancer or neglect their duty to order a biopsy after finding a suspicious lump.

But diagnostic technicians, like the radiologist who interpreted your ultrasounds, and pathologists can also be held accountable for their errors. In 2012, the Journal of Clinical Oncology reported that misdiagnosis rates may be as high as 44% for some types of cancer. That’s nearly 130,000 patients every year, subjected to needless suffering.

Did My Doctor Miss The Signs?

Unlike most cancers, everyone can point to the first sign of breast cancer: lumps in breast tissue. Almost every form of malignancy presents “non-specific” symptoms, ones that could be caused by a number of different conditions, both worrisome and benign.

But according to the American Cancer Society, most breast lumps are benign, too, like cysts and fibrosis which occur naturally as women age. For many physicians, associated symptoms become a critical tool at this point. But even these signs, like changes in a breast’s shape or discharge from a nipple, can be misconstrued as the result of a common infection or non-cancerous growth.

In fact, there’s even a type of cancer, inflammatory breast cancer, named because it presents all the same symptoms as a routine infection or injury.

The only true way to distinguish between these non-malignant changes and breast cancer is by taking a biopsy, removing a sample of the suspicious tissue and inspecting it under a microscope. Pathologists, however, are no less fallible than primary care physicians.

Testing 115 pathologists on their accuracy, researchers from 11 different universities, including Stanford and Harvard, presented the physicians with slides of breast tissue that had already been diagnosed. Overall, the pathologists only agreed on a diagnosis 75% of the time, leaving 1 out of 4 women without a clear answer. For cases of atypical hyperplasia, a precursor to breast cancer, they only got it right 48% of the time.

While statistics can help us understand the extent of a problem, we prefer to think about the women behind those numbers. Our attorneys take great pains to understand the real challenges our clients face; it’s the only way we can truly support patients who have been misdiagnosed.

For many women, speaking to other people who are battling breast cancer helps a lot. SHARE runs a number of support groups in New York, exclusively for women who are affected by breast and ovarian cancers. They hold monthly meetings in Manhattan, Queens, Brooklyn and the Bronx. To learn more about their mission, and find a date you can attend a session, check out their website.

Can I File A Lawsuit?

Cancer misdiagnosis is startlingly common, but few patients are aware of their legal rights. Banville Law’s personal injury lawyers offer free consultations, so you can learn more without risking a thing. The last thing we want to become is another burden. That’s why we always provide our services on a contingency-fee basis: you owe us nothing unless we secure compensation in your case. Just contact us today, describe your situation and we’ll help in any way we can.

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