Failure to Diagnose Breast Cancer Due to Medical Malpractice in Oregon
When people hear the word “cancer” often a serious illness comes to mind, as it should. Most people understand that cancer is a very serious disease that, if not treated appropriately or in a timely manner can lead to death or other long-term complications. If cancer is not diagnosed in a timely manner, it allows for the cancer to grow and spread, becoming potentially inoperable and metastatic. One example of a type of cancer that patients sometimes experience a delay in diagnosis is breast cancer. The failure to diagnose breast cancer due to medical malpractice can lead to a devastating outcome.
Breast cancer is a very prevalent cancer occurring in the United States, and worldwide. Approximately 1 in 8 women will develop invasive breast cancer in their lifetime, which is about 13% of women. Sadly, in 2021, it is expected that an addition 281,550 people will be diagnosed with invasive cancer, with an additional 49,290 people people diagnosed with non-invasive breast cancer. While most types of breast cancer can be easily treated if detected early, sadly if cancer goes undetected it can become incurable, create an additional need for invasive treatment, or even cause death.
The overall survival rate of breast cancer is 90% but depends on many factors, including tumor size, lymph node involvement, stage at diagnosis, hormone receptor status of the tumor, co-morbidities the patient may have, HER-2 status, presence or absence of mutations, and sub-type of breast cancer. These are just a few of the many factors that are taken into account when staging a woman with breast cancer. As mentioned above, timely diagnosis is often key for survival.
Diagnosis of Breast Cancer
Breast cancer is commonly detected through routine screening mammogram. Women ages 40-54 should have screening mammograms annually, while women over the age of 55 should have mammograms ever 2 years, unless they wish to continue yearly screening. If breast cancer is suspected, additional imaging is performed, such a an MRI or ultrasound with tomography. If breast cancer is suspected, a biopsy is performed. If found to be malignant, additional testing should be conducted such as imaging to determine if the cancer has spread outside of the breast. From there, a mastectomy or lumpectomy is often performed, but depends on a variety of factors, such as whether or not the tumor has spread to other areas in the body.
How is Breast Cancer Managed?
As mentioned above, breast cancer can be quite treatable if diagnosed in a timely manner. Treatment for this type of cancer may include the following:
- Chemotherapy – this type of therapy involves the use of chemicals to kill cancer in a person’s body. While it usually is quite effective, chemotherapy is not able to differentiate between the cancer cells and healthy cells, so healthy cells are often affected, leading to side effects
- Radiation – This type of therapy uses strong energy beams aimed at the tumor to kill the cancer
- Surgical removal of the tumor (lumpectomy) – This involves removal of the tumor itself, and some of the healthy tissue to ensure that all of the cancer has been removed
- Surgical removal of the breast (mastectomy) – This involves surgical removal of the entire breast. Sometimes, a double mastectomy is performed, meaning that both breasts are entirely removed
- Immunotherapy – Immunotherapy is often quite effective, but is most often used if the cancer has spread. This type of therapy enhances the body’s immune system response to fight the cancer. While effective, it can send the immune system into overdrive, causing inflammation of the organs (i.e. colitis, pneumonitis, nephritis, pancreatitis, etc.)
- Hormonal therapy – Some types of tumors feed off of hormones, so hormone therapy is used to suppress these hormone levels. This helps to keep the tumor from growing
- Clinical trials – There are many different trials for breast cancer, aimed at improving treatment options for patients with breast cancer. Trials can include chemotherapy, immunotherapy, radiation, or many other types of treatments
Consequences of a Delay in Breast Cancer Diagnosis
There are many consequences that a delay in breast cancer diagnosis can cause. If treated in a timely manner, often patients can avoid receiving a more invasive type of treatment (i.e. chemotherapy). If there is a delay in diagnosis, patients often have to go through more intensive treatment such as chemotherapy, radiation, more invasive surgery, or other therapies such as immunotherapy. In addition to requiring more intensive therapy, patients may be considered incurable due to the delay in diagnosis if the cancer has spread. Sadly, patients are at a significantly increased risk for dying due to a delay in breast cancer diagnosis.
How Can a Breast Cancer Diagnosis Be Delayed Due to Medical Malpractice?
While breast cancer can be diagnosed with routine screenings (i.e. self-breast examinations, examination by a healthcare provider, mammograms, etc.), unfortunately there are times when these methods are either not utilized, or are not utilized properly, leading to a delay in diagnosis. While the overall survival rate of breast cancer is 90%, if a delay in diagnosis occurs it allows for the tumor to grow and spread, often leading to metastasis or inoperability of the tumor. When a delay in diagnosis occurs due to a healthcare provider’s error and it results in patient harm, it is considered to be medical malpractice. Examples as to how patients with breast cancer can experience a delay in diagnosis includes the following:
- Failing to educate patients regarding screening mammograms
- Failing to perform screening mammograms
- Failing to perform a mammogram or other imaging modality if a patient has a potential concern for breast cancer or if a lump is felt
- Radiologic misinterpretation due to a radiologists belief that the tumor seen on imaging is benign when it is in fact malignant
- Failure to perform a biopsy for a suspicious lump
- Failure to conduct all staging methods (i.e. CT scan or bone scan) to evaluate for metastatic disease
- Misinterpretation of pathology, which can occur when a pathologists reviews the tumor and believes it is benign when it is in fact malignant
- Failure of a physician to conduct a breast examination
- Dismissing a patient’s concerns of a lump or other concerning signs of breast cancer
Ask Our Law Firm For Help After the Failure to Diagnose Breast Cancer Harms You
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.