October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month and that means that television shows, magazines, and web articles will be reminding women all over the country to check for breast cancer. Every year in the U.S. more than 200,000 women find out that they have breast cancer and over 40,000 women will die from it. As a woman it is important to check for lumps at home and, once you are over the age of 50, to get a mammogram every other year.
With breast cancer rates so high most people know someone with the disease who wishes they could have known sooner. While some symptoms are obvious, some people have mild or no symptoms at all. If cancer is left unrecognized by doctors then it can start as an easily removed lump and turn to a deadly disease.
Misdiagnosis can happen for many reasons
Although cancer screening has increasingly gotten better, many women face unnecessary injuries and even death due to misdiagnosis. Issues can arise due to doctor error such as:
- Improperly reading a mammogram
- Disregarding a breast lump, change of size or shape, changes in the nipple, or discoloration
- Failing to refer a patient to a specialist
- Failing to order additional tests during a mammogram that appeared abnormal
- Improper sampling of the breast tissue for a biopsy
- Poor communication with patients
- And pathologist error during interpretation of the breast biopsy
When a doctor finds a breast lump then they can order a biopsy to test for cancerous cells. A recent study has shown that breast cancer misdiagnosis often happens during the biopsy stage. Professional pathologists studied biopsies and were usually able to identify when cancer was already present in breast tissue. They were not very good at noticing it during the more early stages, when screening for precancerous cells. In fact, pathologists diagnosed precancerous cells correctly less than half the time. That is no better than flipping a coin.
So what can you do about it?
There is no way to prevent doctor mistakes but you can better the chances of finding breast cancer early in a few ways. First of all it is important to understand the signs of breast cancer. Early signs include:
- A change in the breast or nipple appearance
- A change in how the breast or nipple feels
- Clear or red nipple discharge
You can also detect breast cancer early by performing breast self-exams once a month. Forty percent of diagnosed breast cancer was detected early on by someone doing a breast self-exam. Finally you should always get a second opinion at the doctor. If you are exhibiting signs of breast cancer and the biopsy came back negative then you can always get a second opinion.
If you or a loved one has suffered because of a late or misdiagnosed case of breast cancer then contact an attorney right away. You could receive payment for the expenses and suffering that your family has endured.