breast cancer

How Common Are Breast Cancer Misdiagnoses?

Given the seriousness of cancer, most people imagine that doctors, radiologists, and other healthcare professionals invariably take every precaution possible to diagnose cancer. While many of them do take pains to help their patients, cancer is astonishingly a frequently misdiagnosed disease. Breast cancer in particular is often misdiagnosed, putting the lives of countless women at unnecessary risk. Doctors who fail to perform their duties with reasonable care and miss a breast cancer diagnosis can be held liable for medical malpractice.

Breast Cancer Misdiagnoses

Diagnosing cancer is challenging even for the most skilled doctors. Cancer manifests itself in different ways, from one patient to another, displaying several diverse symptoms. These symptoms are often shared with diseases and conditions that are unrelated to cancer, leading physicians to improperly diagnose the disease.

But doctors are not expected to be perfect. No matter how careful and deliberate they are, they can and do make mistakes. Misdiagnosing breast cancer is no exception to this. There isn’t a great deal of reliable data on breast cancer misdiagnoses, but there are case reports and anecdotal evidence that suggest it is quite common. By some estimates, diagnostic errors for medical patients in a general range anywhere from 5% to 28%.

An expansive study conducted by Dartmouth College, the University of Vermont, and the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center published in the March 2015 issue of the Journal of American Medical Association, provides possibly the best and most recent data on breast cancer misdiagnoses. Numerous pathologists looked at breast biopsy samples and compared their findings to those provided by an expert panel.

Although most pathologists’ diagnoses were accurate, there were some mistakes made. Approximately 13% of the diagnoses missed Stage 1 breast cancer. Meanwhile, 48% failed to detect atypia hyperplasia, a precursor to breast cancer. A significant number also over-diagnosed atypia hyperplasia (diagnosed it as more severe than it was).

How are Misdiagnoses Possible?

Misdiagnoses of breast cancer can happen for several reasons. Cancerous lumps are often confused for blocked milk ducts, breast cysts, and other benign conditions. However, a misdiagnosis alone is not enough to prove malpractice. Although a misdiagnosis is a mistake, the mistake has to be unreasonable in light of the circumstances. Put another way, it has to be the result of negligence.

Negligence might include not ordering proper tests which could help clarify the nature of a breast lump. Or it could mean ordering a test but failing to read it properly. An error with the biopsy might lead a doctor to misdiagnose the cancer. When a mistake is the result of negligence or is unreasonable in light of the circumstances, there’s a strong likelihood that medical malpractice was committed.

Contact an Experienced Chicago Medical Malpractice Attorney

Any kind of medical malpractice will have serious consequences; for the cancer patient, the error could prove devastating. Potentially dangerous medical treatment will be needed to try to force the cancer into remission and handle other complications. This will result in significant medical bills, along with missed time from work and related damages. Doctors, hospitals, clinics, and other individuals and facilities should be held accountable when their negligence results in breast cancer misdiagnoses.

It starts with retaining the experienced Chicago medical malpractice attorneys of Hale & Monico. Give us a call today to learn more about your legal options.