Breast Cancer Misdiagnosis – What You Need to Know to Save a Life

According to the American Cancer Society, it is expected that one in eight women will develop breast cancer. Except for skin cancer, breast cancer is the most common type of cancer diagnosed in American women. In 2018, it is estimated that 266,120 women will be diagnosed with breast cancer and almost 50,000 women will die from the disease. Unfortunately, breast cancer misdiagnosis is common in the United States. Our New Jersey breast cancer misdiagnosis lawyers help clients file medical malpractice claims when doctors and other medical professionals misdiagnose breast cancer.

How Often is Breast Cancer Misdiagnosed?

According to one study, abnormal, precancerous breast cells were only diagnosed correctly in about one-half of the cases studied. Around one-third of the cases were misdiagnosed as normal or not worrisome. In addition, many of the cases were diagnosed as suspicious even though the breast tissue was normal.

Because of misdiagnosis, women may receive invasive or potentially dangerous treatments when there is no sign or indication of breast cancer. In cases where cancer is present but is not diagnosed properly, women may not receive treatment until their breast cancer has become life-threatening or requires removal of the breasts. Therefore, many professionals advise that women who are concerned should seek a second opinion.

Signs of Breast Cancer

Breast cancer occurs when abnormal cells or damaged cells continue to divide instead of dying. The abnormal or cancerous cells continue to divide and crowd out healthy cells. When cells in the breast become cancerous, cancer can metastasize (spread) to other areas of the body or the lymph nodes near the breasts. When breast cancer is diagnosed early, the survival rate increases with treatment. Unfortunately, as we discussed above, many cases of breast cancer are misdiagnosed.

However, when breast cancer is misdiagnosed, a woman’s chance of survival decreases because treatment may not begin until the cancer spreads or causes more severe symptoms. For women, monthly self-examinations are important to help detect signs of breast cancer early. In addition, annual mammograms and examinations by a medical provider can help detect cases of cancer earlier.

Some of the signs of breast cancer include:

  • Nipple retraction (the nipple turns inward)
  • A lump or lumps in the breast
  • Nipple or breast pain
  • Swelling of the breast or part of the breast
  • Thickening, scaliness, or redness of the skin on the breasts of the nipple
  • Nipple discharge
  • Dimpling or skin irritation

Women who experience these symptoms or any unexplained symptoms should seek medical attention immediately.

How Does Breast Cancer Misdiagnosis Occur?

In many cases, a breast cancer misdiagnosis occurs when a medical provider is negligent. For many women, the negligence results in a negative outcome because the delay caused by the negligence makes the cancer more difficult to treat. Examples of malpractice regarding a breast cancer misdiagnosis include:

  • Misreading the results of an x-ray, MRI, ultrasound, CT scan, or mammogram
  • Failing to screen for breast cancer
  • Improper treatment for breast cancer
  • Failing to follow up with a patient about a positive test result or a suspicious test result
  • Failing to discover cancerous cells during a mammogram or other diagnostic test
  • Waiting too long to conduct a biopsy when a lump is discovered, or other symptoms are present
  • Misdiagnosing breast cancer as a benign breast cyst, blocked milk duct, or fibroadenoma

If you believe you have been misdiagnosed, it is critical that you seek a second opinion from a medical professional, preferably a breast cancer specialist. Contact the New Jersey medical malpractice lawyers at Nagel Rice, LLP today to discuss your legal options for filing a medical malpractice claim for breast cancer misdiagnosis.