Feature Article  


Failures in Diagnosing Breast Cancer 
are Numerous

The incidence of medical malpractice related to the diagnosis and treatment of breast cancer is alarming.  Breast cancer is the most common type of cancer in women in the U.S. and the second leading cause of death for all women.  Nonetheless, too many women "fall through the cracks" when physicians negligently fail to diagnose their condition early on.  The unacceptable result of this negligence is often the loss of treatment options and/or the loss of chance of survival.



  • Breast cancer is the most common type of cancer in women in the U.S.
  • 1 out of 9 women in the U.S. will develop breast cancer in their lifetime.
  • Breast cancer is the 2nd leading cause of death for all women and the leading cause of death in women ages 40-55.
  • About 85% of  women whose breast cancer is detected before it has spread to the axillary nodes will survive at least 5 years.
  • Delay in diagnosis of breast cancer is the #1 basis for medical malpractice lawsuits in the U.S.


The probability that breast cancer will recur in a patient is directly related to the stage of the malignancy.   If breast cancer is detected and addressed before the cancer has spread to any lymph nodes, the chances of survival are significantly better than otherwise.  Any undue delay in diagnosing or treating breast cancer can have devastating consequences.   Unfortunately, too often obvious warning signs are ignored and/or precautionary measures are not taken.  The following are among the more common forms of negligence by physicians in diagnosing and/or treating breast cancer:

  • Failing to perform a breast examination (during a physical or while treating patient for certain other reasons) which would have identified a clinically obvious tumor;
  • Failing to identify a palpable lump during a breast examination;
  • Mistaking a tumor for a breast infection;
  • Mistaking a tumor as benign and failing to recommend biopsy or removal;
  • Disregarding history of sharp pain in breast;
  • Disregarding signs of retraction;
  • Failing to determine the cause of nipple discharge;
  • Relying upon negative aspiration biopsy;
  • Relying upon mammography in lieu of physical breast examination;
  • Failing to order a mammogram;
  • Misinterpreting a mammogram;
  • Failing to react to mammogram findings;
  • Failing to order additional radiological tests;
  • Failing to order a biopsy;
  • Failing to order ultrasound when indicated; and,
  • Failing to follow-up with the patient.

Please keep in mind that the foregoing are merely examples, and are by no means intended as an exhaustive list of failures that may result in delayed diagnosis of breast cancer.  Anyone who believes that a physician's failure to timely diagnose breast cancer may have resulted in loss of treatment options and/or loss of chance of survival should be encouraged to consult an attorney as soon as possible in order to preserve and protect their legal rights.





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