Medical Malpractice

Breast Cancer Misdiagnosis and Mammography Errors


breast cancer misdiagnosisMany people consider breast cancer misdiagnosis as a case of a ‘doctor’ erroneously labeling breast cancer as another illness or problem, but rarely consider late diagnosis or a radiologist’s mammography errors as cases of misdiagnosis. Levy Konigsberg cancer malpractice lawyers in New York and New Jersey, represent many clients where negligence or late diagnosis is the basis for their cancer misdiagnosis lawsuit. Nearly 200,000 women are diagnosed with breast cancer very year, and an estimated 40,000 die of the disease annually. Unfortunately, many patients believe their breast cancer should have been diagnosed sooner. Whether the cause for late diagnosis is negligence, incompetence or the result of a mammography error, it can be considered a case of breast cancer misdiagnosis. It is not commonly known that radiologists are the leading medical specialty sued in breast cancer malpractice cases. The three most common types of breast imaging are mammography, ultrasound (sonogram) and breast MRI. However, various types of abnormal findings are often missed by unskilled radiologists interpreting these tests.

Because mammograms are performed specifically for early cancer detection, mammography errors can have devastating effects on patients. Mammograms are basically x-rays of the breast, and they are used for two main reasons. The first is known as a “screening mammogram” and is done periodically to see if there are any unusual changes in the breast that can be detected by mammography long before symptoms can present themselves. The second type of mammogram is known as a “diagnostic mammogram”. Diagnostic mammogram is done when there is a particular mass, symptom or other finding that indicates the need for the study to diagnose the nature of the mass, symptom or other finding. In both cases, mammography errors can result in breast cancer misdiagnosis.

Ultrasound or sonography is usually not used for general screening, unless it is indicated for specific patients, such as women with dense breast tissue. Ultrasound is frequently performed to determine if a mass felt by the patient or her physician is solid (usually solid masses are more suspicious for cancer) or filled with fluid (usually fluid or cystic masses are less suspicious).

Breast MRI is a non-invasive procedure that can show what the inside of the breast looks like without having to do surgery or flatten the breast (as in a mammogram). Each exam produces hundreds of images of the breast, cross-sectional in all three directions (side-to-side, top-to-bottom, front-to-back), which are then read by a radiologist. Again, in a case where the MRI is incorrectly read by the radiologist, the resulting breast cancer misdiagnosis can be considered malpractice. Breast MRI is effective for diagnosing the presence of a cancerous tumor in the breast, although it is less sensitive to some more subtle signs of breast cancer, such as micro calcifications, which can be seen on mammography.

Because of the complicated nature of analyzing breast imaging results, the American College of Radiologists has adopted a classification system for reporting mammogram and ultrasound results. This system is called the BIRAD system (Breast Imaging Reporting and Data System) and can reduce the risk of mammography errors (improper interpretation or negligence). The scale for BIRADS ranges from one to five, with higher numbers indicating a greater possibility of breast cancer. With BIRAD in place, the chances of breast cancer misdiagnosis does decrease, but is not eliminated altogether.

Lumps and bumps are the symptoms most commonly associated wit breast cancer. However, other abnormalities may be warning signs of breast cancer that radiologist must note in the report. These include clustered calcifications, micro calcifications, spiculated mass (spiky lump), asymmetrical density of breast tissue, skin thickening, retraction (skin or nipple pulling inwards), focal distortion (something is pressing on tissue).

In addition, imaging results from mammograms, breast ultrasound and breast MRI’s must be incorporated into the overall clinical picture. Failure to do so is another form of mammography errors (negligence). This means that the treating physician must consider the imaging results along with the signs and symptoms that the patient is experiencing. Failure to consider the big picture and treating every patient as a unique patient is something LK Law cancer malpractice lawyers in New York and New Jersey see in a number of their cases and is considered a form of negligence or malpractice.

The failure to make recommendations based on an abnormal mammogram, sonogram or MRI findings often results in a lack of timely follow up that permits the cancer to advance and worsen. The kinds of follow-up that may be needed include: three-month or six-month follow-up imaging, spot views, magnification, further diagnostic mammogram, breast ultrasound (for lumps and masses) or biopsy (for a tissue sample). Failure to recommend these follow-ups when called on can be the result of negligence or of a mammography error (where the radiologist does not see a need for follow-ups because the incorrectly administered mammogram shows no signs of cancer).

If you or someone you know has been diagnosed with breast cancer that you believe should have been diagnosed sooner, call Levy Konigsberg. We are cancer malpractice lawyers in New York and New Jersey – our team of medical malpractice lawyers handles cases of delayed diagnosis of breast cancer. We can help you or your loved one get the compensation they deserve.

ATTENTION: If you believe that you or your loved one has been the victim of medical malpractice, you should seek legal advice of experienced medical malpractice attorneys to determine if you have a case. For a free consultation with the medical malpractice lawyers at Levy Konigsberg LLP please call our 24/7 toll-free hotline at 1-800-988-8005 or submit an email inquiry (see form above).

For more information about the law firm's practice areas please contact Levy Konigsberg LLP at 1-212-605-6200 or 1-800-988-8005, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

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