How Often is Breast Cancer Misdiagnosed?

December 19, 2022 by Carrie Capouellez
How Often Is Breast Cancer Misdiagnosed

Many of our lives have been affected by a cancer diagnosis – our own or that of someone we care about. In fact, the National Breast Cancer Foundation found one in every eight women will be diagnosed with breast cancer during their lifetime. And, breast cancer causes approximately 39,620 deaths every year. Just hearing about or reading about breast cancer can bring up anxiety. As is the case with most types of cancer, early detection and effective treatment are crucial for breast cancer patients. A misdiagnosis, delayed diagnosis, or failure to diagnose can prove fatal. So, just how often is breast cancer misdiagnosed?

Breast cancer is the most common cancer that is not a skin cancer. While cancer of all types can be frequently misdiagnosed, breast cancer in particular is extremely often misdiagnosed, putting countless lives at risk.

Signs and Symptoms of Breast Cancer

Breast cancer arises when abnormal cells divide, instead of dying, and crowd out healthy cells. When breast cancer is diagnosed promptly, the survival rate increases with treatment. Unfortunately, breast cancer is often misdiagnosed, and when this happens, survival rates decrease. If you have a family history of breast cancer or you are concerned about developing the condition, here are some signs and symptoms you can look for to remain proactive about your health:

  • Nipple retraction or turning inward
  • Dimpling of the skin or skin irritation
  • A lump or multiple lumps in the breast
  • Nipple pain
  • Change in the shape, size, or appearance of the breast
  • Breast pain
  • Swelling of the breast or of part of the breast
  • Nipple discharge
  • Thickening, redness, or scaling of nipple and/or breast skin

Four Main Types of Diagnostic Medical Errors

Diagnostic errors can manifest in four main ways:

  1. An incorrect diagnosis: A patient is mistakenly told they don’t have cancer or mistakenly told they do have cancer when they don’t
  2. Misdiagnosis: A patient is wrongly told they have cancer when they don’t or are diagnosed with another condition when they do in fact have cancer
  3. Delayed diagnosis: The patient is not told of their cancer diagnosis for too long
  4. Undiagnosed: The patient’s cancer goes unnoticed and thus unaddressed

The New England Journal of Medicine found about 31 percent of breast cancers are wrongly diagnosed, which means healthy patients underwent cancer treatment for no reason. When a provider’s carelessness causes you medical damage, both they and the facility in which they work could be held legally responsible for your damages.

Causes of Breast Cancer Misdiagnosis

Doctors may employ varied approaches to assessing patients and treating their ailments; however, there is a general consensus that when determining whether or not a patient has breast cancer, a medical team should utilize several forms of testing to ensure the results of a single test are not misleading. In addition, other common causes of breast cancer misdiagnosis include:

  • Physician negligence
  • Faulty testing devices and results
  • Cancerous lumps being mistaken for clogged milk ducts, cysts, or other conditions
  • Difficulty identifying symptoms
  • Failure to order appropriate testing
  • Failure to perform a biopsy on abnormal tissue
  • Waiting too long to conduct a biopsy after a lump is found
  • Failure to read or interpret lab or test results
  • Finding what is thought to be cancer and treating a benign condition such as fibrocystic breast disease
  • Prescribing the improper treatment
  • Failure or delay in consultation or referral
  • Miscommunication between patient and provider or among healthcare providers
  • Not collecting or preserving blood work or biopsies properly
  • Improper or inadequate employee training

What To Ask Your Doctor If You Fear a Breast Cancer Misdiagnosis

If you have been diagnosed with breast cancer, along your journey many things can go wrong. Your healthcare provider may miss symptoms or think you have another disease, which constitutes a misdiagnosis. If you had a missed or delayed diagnosis of cancer, you should consult with a Philadelphia medical malpractice attorney to find out more about your legal rights.

If you think your doctor may have missed identifying breast cancer, you can always get a second opinion. You can also ask your provider why they don’t think your condition is cancer so you can better understand their reasoning and recommendations. You can also ask for repeat testing, a different type of diagnostic testing in addition to what you’ve already had done, a second opinion on reading test results or reviewing a biopsy, and more.

Philadelphia Medical Malpractice Lawyers Can Help If Your Breast Cancer Is Misdiagnosed

Most medical malpractice can have serious consequences; however, for a cancer patient, an error can be fatal, worsen the overall outlook, or require extremely aggressive treatment not otherwise needed. This will result in significant medical bills, missed time from work, and other breast cancer misdiagnosis damages. Doctors, medical facilities, and healthcare staff should be held accountable when their negligence results in a breast cancer misdiagnosis.

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