Breast cancer is one of the most common forms of cancer that women develop. Although it was once a severe prognosis with little hope of survival despite aggressive chemotherapy and surgeries, many women these days beat breast cancer and survive for decades afterward.
Timely diagnosis is as important as aggressive treatment in the fight against breast cancer. Unfortunately, there are many physicians who make the mistake of relying on a single diagnostic test to determine whether a patient might have breast cancer. Physicians also need to listen carefully to patients, consider doing a needle biopsy or refer a patient onto a breast cancer specialist if there are concerning issues but inconclusive mammogram results.
Not being aggressive enough in the diagnostic process could lead to a failure to diagnose someone and a delay in treatment that could have catastrophic consequences for the patient.
Mammograms have noteworthy limitations
While mammograms, a specific kind of breast imaging test, are an effective diagnostic tool in many circumstances, they should not be the sole source of guidance if a patient presents symptoms or has noticed lumps in her breast. Unfortunately, especially for physicians who have a general or family practice, a mammogram and manual exam may be the only diagnostic testing that they have personal experience with.
There are certain circumstances in which the limitations of mammograms are particularly obvious. The most common is when a patient presents dense breast tissue. Young women typically have more dense breast tissue that becomes less dense as they age. However, those with small breasts or conditions like mammary hyperplasia may also have more dense breast tissue that complicates the process of securing accurate mammogram results.
Unfortunately, dense breast tissue, a family history of breast cancer, previous biopsies and even estrogen medication can result in false negative tests, which means that doctors testing women with any of these factors should engage in secondary diagnostic practices even if the mammogram looks normal.
A quick diagnosis is critical for a better prognosis
The earlier the stage of the breast cancer at the time of diagnosis, the better the prognosis for the patient and the less invasive procedures they will require in order to beat their cancer.
Different forms of breast cancer spread at different rates, so a delay in diagnosis for one woman may be less of an issue than for another. However, the longer it took for your physician or a second doctor to arrive at a diagnosis, the greater the difficulty you will likely experience during treatment.
When a doctor failed to diagnose you despite your presenting valid concerns and requesting testing, you may be able to bring a malpractice claim against them for their failure and oversight.