Diagnosing Breast Cancer
The probability that breast cancer will recur in a patient is directly related to the stage of the malignancy. If breast cancer is detected and addressed before the cancer has spread to any lymph nodes, the chances of survival are significantly better than otherwise. Any undue delay in diagnosing or treating breast cancer can have devastating consequences.
Some common mistakes in the diagnosis of breast cancer are as follows. Mistaking a tumor for a breast infection. Mistaking a tumor as benign and failing to recommend removal. Disregarding a history of sharp pain in the breast. Failing to order or misinterpreting a mammogram. Relying upon a negative aspiration biopsy. Relying upon mammography in lieu of a physical breast exam. Failing to determine the cause of nipple discharge. Disregarding signs of retraction.
Failure To Diagnosis
Diagnostic errors continue to be the most common allegation involved in breast cancer claims, accounting for 54% of all claims. Diagnostic errors involving interpretation of mammography are a significant source of claims – mammography is the most common procedure involved in breast cancer claims. Interestingly, claims involving the “procedure” of manual breast exam result in the highest indemnity paid on breast cancer claims.
Case Studies & Insurance Data…
The trend to minimize the invasiveness of biopsies by performing fine needle and sentinel node biopsies may have led to increased risk exposure for physicians. In 1999, the Archives of Surgery reported that physicians performing their first 60-80 sentinel node biopsies (as opposed to the more invasive axillary lymph node dissection) were more likely to understage cancer. This statistic is attributable to the steep learning curve associated with the use of fine needle and sentinel node biopsies.
Recent Research Study Summaries…
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Garth Sullivan, Esq.
Client Relations Director, AMFS, Inc.