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Failure to diagnose breast cancer

An Ohio woman noticed a large knot on her right breast and went to the hospital to get it checked out. The original diagnosis was fibrous cyst. Sometime later, the next diagnosis was an infection. Finally, after some delay, an ultrasound and mammogram diagnosed the problem as stage III breast cancer. This misdiagnosis and/or failure to diagnose did not cause such a delay that the cancer became untreatable, but other women in similar circumstances have not been that fortunate.

Breast cancer causes approximately 80,000 deaths annually, and this is in large part because the cancer was not immediately identified. Many of the tests conducted concerning such cancer are prone to error in part due to disputes in the medical industry about examination of cell clusters and identifying whether such growths are cancerous.

It is estimated that one particular kind of cancer, ductal carcinoma in situ, is misdiagnosed or not diagnosed approximately 17 percent of the time. Even a mammography, the most reliable method for diagnosing breast cancer is not full proof.

Conversely, breast cancer can be falsely diagnosed 17 to 30 percent of the time, and this can result in a woman going through aggressive chemotherapy and other treatments that only later were discovered to be unnecessary. Due to the large numbers of false diagnosis, it is suggested that patients seek multiple opinions concerning their condition before undergoing any type of treatment.

Misdiagnosis can limit the way medical conditions are addressed, and hospitals must take all necessary steps in order that such a misdiagnosis does not occur. However, one incentive to make sure that hospitals take all the necessary steps is through litigation. A medical malpractice lawsuit may not always be sufficient to make sure an initial misdiagnosis does not take place, but it may provide the patient and their families with the resources to go on with their lives. It may also prevent future medical malpractice as well.

Source: Digital Journal, "The Breast Cancer Misdiagnosis Problem," Jan. 12, 2012

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