Misdiagnosis of breast cancer: Negligence lawsuits & settlements Getting compensation after a breast cancer misdiagnosis

There are 2 ways that breast cancer can be misdiagnosed.  The first case is the patient had a mammogram where the cancer was missed and not diagnosed.  The second case is when the patient had a mammogram and undergoes treatment for cancer that was misdiagnosed.  

Milwaukee law firm sees two kinds of misdiagnosis as unacceptable:

As attorneys who have represented many women in breast cancer lawsuits in Racine and throughout Wisconsin, it’s sometimes hard to say which scenario is worse: The woman who’s told her mammography looks fine when she actually has cancer or the woman who’s told she has breast cancer and undergoes surgery and chemotherapy – only to find out later she didn’t have cancer. Either situation is completely unacceptable. And yet, we still hear of both scenarios happening on a regular basis.

1. The missed breast cancer misdiagnosis

In the 1980s and 1990s, Warshafsky's personal injury lawyers saw many cases where women were told their mammograms looked fine, only to find out later they weren’t. In some cases, an abnormality on a mammogram just wasn’t noticed. One such case resulted in cancer going undetected for 3 years! Besides having to undergo a mastectomy and chemotherapy, the woman’s odds of survival plunged from 90% to 50%. In other cases, women who had mammograms after feeling a lump were told by the physician reviewing their mammogram there was nothing to be alarmed about. No biopsies were ever recommended. Sadly, this gave their cancer the opportunity to spread unchecked. 

Although the number of such misdiagnoses has declined, they still occur. It has been estimated at least 10,000 women receive such misdiagnoses every year. Most are young women. Because of their age, the doctors looking at their mammograms don’t always follow through with more aggressive testing to rule out the possibility of a suspicious lump being breast cancer. For the woman (or even man) with breast cancer, early diagnosis makes a huge difference. Early-stage cancer surgery is less disfiguring, chemotherapy may not be necessary and the odds of survival are far greater. Sadly, our Milwaukee cancer attorneys have seen this happen multiple times, when even once would have been too many. If you are facing a misdiagnosis or cancer caused by exposure to harmful materials, the Mesothelioma cancer attorneys at Warshafsky can help you reach a fair settlement on your case.  

2. The cancer misdiagnosis

On the other hand, there is the equally horrific scenario of being diagnosed with breast cancer, then finding out you never actually had it – after going through chemotherapy and/or having a mastectomy! It is hard to contemplate how such things happen, and yet they do. One Texas woman underwent seven months of chemotherapy after being told she had Stage IV breast cancer, only to find out later her oncologist had misread a PET scan early in her diagnosis and she never had cancer at all. The only way this mother of four found out was through another doctor she had gone to for help with her depression and anxiety. This doctor reviewed all her medical records and began to suspect a misdiagnosis. An investigation confirmed the original pathology report was misread.

As medical malpractice attorneys, we have represented clients in numerous breast cancer cases with settlements and verdicts ranging from $350,000 to more than $1 million. Although we are glad to have secured these financial awards for our clients and their surviving family members, we would much prefer these cases never even existed.

What everyone should know about mammograms

Mammograms are often touted as a key tool in the early diagnosis of breast cancer. While this is true, it’s important to understand the limitations of mammograms, as well as the importance of having an experienced radiologist reading the mammogram. Mammograms are intended to screen for early signs of cancer, when it is so small it cannot be felt. If your doctor examines your mammogram and suspects there may be cancer, a biopsy will be ordered. Or, at least, it should be ordered. These days, with all the concern over missing a cancer diagnosis in the early stages, most doctors will err on the side of caution and order a biopsy. If you have any questions on why the physician looking at your mammogram isn’t concerned enough about a suspicious area to follow up with a biopsy, consider getting a second opinion from another radiologist or physician qualified to read mammograms.

If you have a mammogram done because you can feel a lump in your breast, you need to realize that a mammogram cannot determine if the lump is cancerous or not. While having a mammogram won’t hurt, and may, in fact, be recommended by your doctor, if you feel a lump you should first consult your primary care doctor or gynecologist. They will likely refer you to a general surgeon to have a biopsy taken. Typically, this is a fine-needle aspiration biopsy (FNAB), the least invasive procedure. This is a simple surgery that removes a small amount of tissue in order to test it for the presence of cancer cells.

Biopsies are usually performed on an outpatient basis and you will usually hear the results within a few days. If there is more reason for concern, your doctor may recommend a core needle biopsy (a larger needle that removes a small cylinder of tissue), an incisional biopsy (surgical removal of part of the lump) or an excisional biopsy (a more aggressive surgery removing the entire lump).

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