Oregon Medical Malpractice Lawyer Explains Why a Delay in the Diagnosis of Breast Cancer Can Be Fatal
Breast cancer is one of the most frequently diagnosed cancers worldwide. In fact, according to the American Cancer Society it is the most commonly diagnosed cancer in women, with an average yearly diagnosis rate in women of 276,480. The American Cancer Society states that in Oregon alone there is an average of 23,330 new cases every year. While the overall 5-year survival rate of breast cancer is 90%, many variables can affect the prognosis or survival rate, including:
- Stage at diagnosis
- The size of the tumor
- The number of lymph nodes invaded by cancer
- The cancer’s hormone-receptor status
- HER2 status
- Whether the tumor is estrogen-negative, progesterone-negative and HER-2 negative (triple negative breast cancer)
- The age of the patient
- Overall general health and co-morbidities at diagnosis
- The type of breast cancer the patient has
- Menopausal status
- Mutation status of the tumor, if known (i.e. BRCA1, BRCA2)
It does not take a doctor to know that a delay in the diagnosis of breast cancer can be a serious concern. Everyone knows that cancer is aggressive and it must be treated even more aggressively with proper and swift treatment. Any delays in treating cancers can make it more difficult to treat later, including allowing it to fester and spread to other parts of the body. Even minor delays can have large consequences in harming patients. This includes breast cancer which, if caught early and treated aggressively, has a strong survival rate as noted above. Therefore, if you or a loved one suffered any type of delay in the diagnosis of breast cancer in Oregon, ask our experienced Portland medical malpractice lawyers at Kuhlman Law how we can help you and your family.
How is Breast Cancer Diagnosed?
Breast cancer is commonly diagnosed by routine screening mammogram. Often, something suspicious is seen on the mammogram which then prompts the physician or healthcare provider to order additional testing. often a diagnostic mammogram is then order, which provides a more detailed image of the breast. From there, if the diagnostic mammogram looks suspicious than breast ultrasound is ordered. Sometimes, a breast ultrasound is ordered in place of a diagnostic mammogram.
Some providers also may choose to perform a Magnetic resonance imaging, or MRI to get more detailed images of the inside of the breast. From there, if the radiologist and the patient’s physician feel the cancer is suspicious for malignancy, a biopsy is performed. Once the biopsy results are received and a diagnosis of breast cancer is made, the physician can then determine the best course of action for the patient.
How is Breast Cancer Treated?
The treatment for breast cancer depends on a variety of factors, including stage of the cancer, if the cancer has spread to lymph nodes or other organs, the hormone receptor status of the tumor, menopausal status and the patient’s overall health. Breast cancer may be treated with the following therapies:
- Removal of the tumor
- Lymph node evaluation to determine the presence or absence of cancer
- Axillary lymph node dissection (removal)
- Brachytherapy – this type of radiation therapy involves placing radioactive seeds in the tumor itself
- Radiation therapy intra-operatively – Intra-operative radiation therapy is given by a beam while in the operating room.
- External-beam radiation therapy – This type of radiation therapy is the most commonly used amongst all types of radiation therapies. External-beam radiation therapy is given from a machine outside of the body. The radiation may be administered to the whole breast or may be targeted to a particular location.
Therapies for Breast Cancer using Medication
Medications used for the treatment of breast cancer are referred to as systemic therapy. There are many types of systemic therapy for breast cancer and they are given in different treatment settings, including adjuvant and neoadjuvant. Neoadjuvant treatment is given before the main type of treatment the patient is receiving (i.e. surgery) while adjuvant treatment is given after the main treatment to help get rid of the remaining cancer cells or help lower the risk of recurrent disease. Types of systemic therapy include:
- Chemotherapy – these drugs work by destroying the cancer cells and stopping them from making more cancer cells. While chemotherapy is quite effective in the treatment of breast cancer, it is not smart enough to kill only the cancer cells, so it kills healthy cells as well (hair cells, cells in your mouth and intestines, and the other healthy cells in your body, causing low blood counts which may make the patient prone to infection or may require a blood transfusion. While there may be side effects due to this, it’s important to know that there is usually a greater benefit to receiving the chemotherapy than the alternative of foregoing chemotherapy due to potential side effects.
- Hormonal therapy – Hormonal therapy is used only if your tumor expresses a certain of hormone (i.e. estrogen or progesterone). This is given to lower the production of estrogen or block the hormones from attaching to the cancer cells. The type of hormonal therapy given depends on the patient’s menopausal status (in women).
- Immunotherapy – Immunotherapy works by heightening the patient’s own immune system to help fight the cancer. While this often works quite well and can often be administered without side effects, some people can experience flu like symptoms and others may experience more severe side effects from the medication sending the patient’s immune system into overdrive. If this occurs, the typical treatment for this type of reaction is steroids. Immunotherapy is typically only administered in patients with advanced metastatic breast cancer.
- Targeted Therapy – Targeted therapy works differently than chemotherapy by targeting just the cancer cells rand limits damage to the healthy cells.
How Can a Breast Cancer Diagnosis be Delayed?
While most types of breast cancer if diagnosed early are quite treatable and curable, unfortunately there are some instances when medical professionals fail to identify breast cancer at an early stage. This can happen if a pathologist misinterprets the pathology of a tumor and feels it is either benign or at an earlier stage than it is (i.e. carcinoma in situ). This could lead to a physician choosing a watch and wait approach rather than a more aggressive course of treatment.
Another cause of delay in diagnosing breast cancer is misinterpretation of imaging. If a radiologist or physician fails to see a mass on imaging when the mass is in fact present on the scan can cause a delay in diagnosis as appropriate action is not taken at that time. If a patient reports to the provider that they feel a lump and the provider assesses and feels the lump is due to something other than cancer without ordering appropriate imaging, the diagnosis of breast cancer can be delayed.
Failure to diagnose at an early stage can allow the cancer to spread to other parts of the body, sometimes making it incurable or may require the patient to receive more aggressive treatment than they would have received if the cancer was diagnosed at an earlier stage.
How Can Our Oregon Medical Malpractice Lawyers Help You?
Our Oregon medical malpractice lawyers can help you by protecting your rights and will ensure you receive the justice you deserve. Women in Oregon who have experienced a delay in the diagnosis of breast cancer who suffered ill effects as a consequence of the delay in diagnosis may be entitled to damages. Damages are often awarded in the form of compensation for medical bills, lost wages, lost future earnings, and pain and suffering amongst many other indications for damages.
Our Oregon medical malpractice lawyers are specially trained and ready to review your case if you were a victim of a breast cancer diagnosis delay that negatively impacted your health condition, leading to a lower survival rate or more aggressive treatment course.
Even if you suffered a delay in the diagnosis of breast cancer, you may still be entitled to catastrophic damages and higher damages than you may believe. This is because, although a defense lawyer or insurance adjuster will claim that you had cancer and you would have needed to go through the same treatment you did even if your diagnosis was not delayed, this neglects that fact that cancer developing into a later stage (i.e. stage 3 or stage 4) could bring 1) a higher rate or reoccurrence, and 2) a higher probability that reoccurrence will be fatal.
This increased risk of a deadly reoccurrence of cancer can also be compensated under Oregon law. An inexperienced medical malpractice lawyer might not realize this, but you can trust our experienced Oregon medical malpractice lawyer to fight for these damages and ensure that you and your family are protected from harm both in the present and in the future if your cancer reappears and is more deadly.
Call Our Experienced Medical Malpractice Lawyers in Oregon After a Delay in the Diagnosis of Breast Cancer Harmed You or Your Family
If you or a loved one have been seriously injured or killed as a result of medical malpractice contact the Oregon Medical Malpractice Lawyers at Kuhlman Law at our number below or fill out the intake form. We offer a free initial case evaluation and handle cases on a contingency fee which means that you pay no money unless we recover.
Our law firm handles cases throughout the state including Bend and Portland Oregon, Redmond, Central Oregon, Sisters, Madras, Multnomah County, Deschutes County, Salem, Eugene, Corvallis, Lane County, Medford, Gresham, La Grande, Albany, Medford, Beaverton, Umatilla, Pendleton, Cottage Grove, Florence, Oregon City, Springfield, Keizer, Grants Pass, McMinnville, Tualatin, West Linn, Forest Grove, Wilsonville, Newberg, Roseburg, Lake Oswego, Klamath Falls, Happy Valley, Tigard, Ashland, Milwakie, Coos Bay, The Dalles, St. Helens, Sherwood, Central Point, Canby, Troutdale, Hermiston, Silverton, Hood River, Newport, Prineville, Astoria, Tillamook, Lincoln City, Hillsboro, and Vancouver, Washington.
We also have an office in Minneapolis, Minnesota and take medical malpractice cases throughout the Twin Cities, including St. Paul, Hennepin County, Ramsey County, Dakota County, Washington County, Anoka County, Scott County, Blaine, Stillwater, and Saint Paul Minnesota.