Many women suffer through the inconvenience and discomfort of an annual screening mammogram, believing that it guarantees early detection and treatment of breast cancer. According to BreastCancer.org, in 2013 over 200,000 women were expected to be diagnosed with breast cancer, and nearly 40,000 would die of the disease. Now a recent study published by the British Medical Journal reports that mammography may not actually reduce mortality from breast cancer, and may actually lead to unnecessary treatment.
Still, the United States Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF) currently recommends that women between the ages of 50 and 74 should have a mammogram every two years, and the American Cancer Society recommends that annual testing should begin even earlier, at age 40. Younger women should discuss their family history with their physician to determine when screening should begin, keeping in mind that about 85% of breast cancers occur in women who have no family history of breast cancer.
Unfortunately, diagnostic errors in the reading of mammography films can lead to serious harm to women’s health and sometimes result in medical malpractice lawsuits. In the February 2013 issue of Radiology, researchers noted that diagnostic errors were the most common cause of malpractice suits against radiologists, and breast cancer was the most frequently missed diagnosis.
According to Cancer.gov, false-negative mammograms may miss 20% of cancers, and an inexperienced, overburdened, or incompetent radiologist may overlook important abnormalities entirely during the reading of screening mammography films. This may lull a woman into a false sense of security. She may ignore her symptoms, or hesitate to discuss them with her doctor. Further testing, such as a diagnostic mammogram, biopsy, ultrasound, or MRI, will not be ordered, and the delay in treatment may allow an undetected cancer to grow or worsen.
Over-diagnosis is also a problem because it can lead to over treatment. Some cancers are slow-growing and may never become a danger to the patient, but distinguishing among them is sometimes difficult. A rush to undergo further treatment when any cancer is detected – biopsies, surgery, chemotherapy, radiation, etc., which may not be absolutely necessary – can result in additional illness and avoidable side-effects.
Similarly, a false-positive mammogram may lead to otherwise unnecessary procedures, such as additional mammography or painful tissue sampling. In addition to the additional radiation exposure and discomfort, any one of these errors in diagnostics can lead to anxiety and long-lasting psychological trauma.
Contact Sibley Dolman Gipe Accident Injury Lawyers, PA
If you have been diagnosed with breast cancer, but feel that your mammogram was misread and the diagnosis should have been made sooner, the advice and representation of an attorney is crucial. Please call Sibley Dolman Gipe Accident Injury Lawyers, PA at (727) 451-6900 today to discuss your situation with one of our attorneys.
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