What a Breast Cancer Misdiagnosis Means for Patients

What a Breast Cancer Misdiagnosis Means for Patients

by / Friday, 25 January 2019 / Published in Medical Malpractice

It’s not always easy to correctly diagnose an illness or medical condition right away. Symptoms can often be linked to many different conditions so doctors use a process known as differential diagnosis to work their way through a list of possible illnesses by doing things like ordering medical testing, learning more about a patient’s symptoms and history, or sending patients to see specialists.

Differential diagnosis is very widely used in healthcare, but that does not mean doctors are automatically off the hook if they fail to correctly diagnose a patient right away. Depending on the nature of the illness, a missed or incorrect diagnosis can potentially have very serious consequences for the patient.

In the case of breast cancer, a doctor incorrectly diagnosing a cancerous lump as something benign prevents the patient from getting treatment in a timely manner and gives the cancer more time to progress. On the other side of things, a benign lump being incorrectly diagnosed as cancerous can result in a patient going through unnecessary mastectomies and other medical treatments.

In a 2015 study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, biopsy specialists often struggled to correctly diagnose breast tissue, leading to many women receiving treatments that were either too strong or not strong enough. During this study, pathologists correctly diagnosed abnormal, precancerous cells approximately half of the time and mistakenly reported finding something suspicious in about 13% of normal tissue samples. In 2008, the New England Journal of Medicine estimated that over 70,000 women were overdiagnosed with having breast cancer, accounting for 31% of all diagnosed cases of breast cancer.

For a medical professional to be found legally liable for a missed or delayed diagnosis, there are three criteria that need to be met:

  • A doctor/patient relationship needs to have existed

  • The doctor was negligent

  • The incorrect diagnosis caused actual harm to the patient

For a doctor to be considered negligent, their actions need to have failed to meet the medical standard of care. What the medical standard of care refers to is the idea that another professional with equal training and experience, and is working under similar circumstances, would have arrived at the same or a similar diagnosis.

Whether you’ve been incorrectly diagnosed with breast cancer or a doctor failed to correctly diagnose breast cancer and it’s had a negative impact on your life, it’s important to contact a medical malpractice lawyer as soon as possible. Medical malpractice cases can be very complicated and it’s important to have someone who understands the law fighting for you. At the Law Offices of Goodwin & Scieszka, we have attorneys who are experienced in handling cases of medical misdiagnosis and can help answer your questions. Contact us today.

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