Misdiagnosis of breast cancer

Making a wrong Diagnosis

Tragically, misdiagnosis of breast cancer can and does happen and has now become one of the. Leading causes of medical negligence litigation in the United States.

Whilst awareness of breast cancer and expertise in how to treat the disease have made huge strides in recent years, mistakes are still being made – often unnecessarily and often with terrible consequences.

Just a few years ago breast cancer diagnosis and treatment were something of a lottery, even in countries with the most advanced health care systems. It was really a matter of luck whether or not you were referred for the appropriate diagnostic tests and whether those tests were analysed and acted on appropriately.

These days the best hospitals offer specialist breast cancer clinics and teams of health care professionals (nurses, oncologists, surgeons etc) who work together to ensure that certain standards are adhered to both in the diagnosis and treatment of the disease.

But as long as serious and avoidable errors continue to be made at the time of diagnosis it’s vital that those at high risk of breast cancer, and those displaying possible systems of it, arm themselves with as much knowledge as possible and use it to navigate the sometimes murky waters of the medical profession.

The survival rate for breast cancer patients is now extremely good as long as the disease is diagnosed and treated early enough. An accurate diagnosis in the early stages can make all the difference in the world to a patient’s prognosis and quality of life.

There are all sorts of reasons why health professionals fail to pick up on the early warning signs. A lack of expertise may mean they fail to detect a suspicious lump during a routine breast examination; they may fail to order the appropriate tests (CT scans, MRI, ultrasound scan or biopsy) or they may misread the results of the tests.

Inflammatory breast cancer (IBC) is a rare but particularly aggressive form of the disease which is frequently misdiagnosed simply because there’s so little awareness about it among the public and even within the medical profession. The disease is often mistaken for an infection and treated with antibiotics by doctors who associate breast cancer with a lump rather than an inflammation.

So what can you do to avoid a misdiagnosis?

Do as much research as possible about the different types of the disease, diagnosis and treatment options. Talk to patients already living with breast cancer (you’ll find plenty of them in on-line forums and chat rooms) because they’re often far better informed about this disease than the average family doctor and they’re only too happy to advise anyone who may be following in their footsteps.

The more research you do the more you’ll be able to ask informed questions of your family doctor. You’ll feel more assertive and less likely to be fobbed off with an unsatisfactory response. Seek a second opinion if necessary and make sure that opinion comes from someone experienced in this field.

If you’re a patient who has been misdiagnosed and you feel there’s a clear case of negligence, you might want to consider legal action. Besides anything else a legal settlement might help to ease any financial burden caused by the disease.


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