Radiologists And Misdiagnoses Of Breast Cancer

A study of medical malpractice claims against radiologists revealed that the most frequent cause of the suit was a failure to diagnose breast cancer. The journal Radiology published the study this month and included an analysis of more than 4,700 medical malpractice claims filed against radiologists all over the country. The claims were all compiled in a network called One-Call Medical.

The study authors pointed out that the errors radiologists were accused of were more often about incorrect diagnosis than about communication errors. Many medical malpractice claims stem from miscommunication by health professionals. The issue is well-known in the medical field and has been the subject of several studies. For radiologists, however, many of the problems are tied to the failure to spot a lesion on a mammography scan. If a lesion is present and the patient does not do follow-up testing, the consequences can be tragic.

The senior author of the study suggested that mammography itself was partly to blame for the misdiagnoses. Mammography is limited to situations where the breast tissue is dense. The technique has limitations and the author believes that some of the problem may be that expectations are too high for perfect diagnoses from mammography scans.

When it comes to cancer, the speed with which the condition is diagnosed can have a dramatic impact on the patients’ chance of a full recovery. A delayed or missed diagnosis can cost a patient the chance to get the treatment he or she needs.

Source: Dotmed Daily News, “Radiologists see most malpractice suits for mammography,” by Loren Bonner, 6 February 2013