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Breast Cancer Misdiagnosis

Dedicated Advocacy from Our New York Medical Malpractice Lawyers

No one ever forgets the moment a doctor informs them they have breast cancer. Their world turns upside down. The grim reality is that one in eight women will eventually receive this diagnosis. What is arguably worse is the relief of being told they are cancer free when, in fact, they do have breast cancer. A cancerous time bomb ticks away within their bodies, and by the time it is detected, their situation may have grown far worse.   

Misdiagnosis is a type of medical malpractice. A New York medical malpractice lawyer at Rheingold Giuffra Ruffo Plotkin & Hellman LLP can help breast cancer patients hold the doctors who misdiagnose their disease liable. Although we can’t reverse time, we can at least help you recover financial compensation to help you cover damages. 

If you or your family has been affected by a misdiagnosis or delayed diagnosis of breast cancer, our firm can help you seek closure. Contact us at (212) 684-1880 or complete this form today.

The Devastating Effects of a Missed or Delayed Diagnosis 

According to the National Breast Cancer Foundation, roughly 310,720 women and 2,800 men will be diagnosed with invasive breast cancer in 2024.  

When discovered in the early stages, breast cancer is treatable and often curable. The five-year survival rate for those treated for breast cancer in its earliest, localized stages is 99%. Keep in mind that the 1% who did die during this five-year period did not necessarily succumb to breast cancer.  

Older women are more likely to receive a breast cancer diagnosis. The median age for a breast cancer diagnosis is 62, according to the American Cancer Society 

The most devastating effect of a missed or delayed breast cancer diagnosis is that a treatable cancer may progress to one that proves fatal. Even if that worst-case scenario does not occur, a missed breast cancer diagnosis may mean that a tumor has grown beyond the point where a lumpectomy makes sense, and the patient must undergo a mastectomy. 

A breast cancer misdiagnosis may also mean that the patient must undergo chemotherapy, radiation, and other difficult, debilitating treatments that might have otherwise been avoidable.  

While the physical health consequences of a breast cancer misdiagnosis are paramount, there is also the psychological fallout to consider. Hair loss due to chemotherapy affects patients deeply. So do other side common side effects, such as mouth sores, nausea, fatigue, and neuropathy. Had their breast cancer been correctly diagnosed at an early stage, such treatment may not have been needed.  

Missing the Signs of Breast Cancer

Medical professionals, including radiologists, oncologists, and other physicians, are supposed to be able to read mammograms and other tests to screen for breast cancer. If one of these signs is not recognized or is not properly treated when it is seen, it can result in a significant setback for patients.

Common early signs of breast cancer include:

  • Pain
  • Swelling
  • Suspicious lumps
  • Nipple discharges

Another way in which breast cancer can go undetected is through misreading mammograms. If the results of a mammogram are unclear or ambiguous, the physician must follow up on the results and seek further information.

Potential Consequences of Missed Breast Cancer Diagnosis 

A breast cancer misdiagnosis occurs for various reasons. Some women are diagnosed by their doctor with a benign breast condition that turns out to be malignant. Perhaps a woman finds a lump in her breast, but the doctor downplays the possibility of cancer and refuses to order tests. This frequently happens with younger, pre-menopausal women.  

While younger women are less likely to develop breast cancer, when breast cancer does strike premenopausal women there is a higher risk of a poor outcome. Chemotherapy for breast cancer will generally put premenopausal women into menopause, or “chemopause.” That means the woman is no longer fertile. Any plans she may have had for conceiving and carrying a baby naturally are over.  

Once breast cancer cells metastasize, or spread, the prognosis for the patient worsens considerably. Metastatic breast cancer is treatable, but it is not curable. As per the Susan G. Komen Foundation, one-third of women diagnosed with metastatic breast cancer in the U.S. are alive five years after diagnosis. Some women may survive a decade or more after a metastatic breast cancer diagnosis.  

There are also cases of benign breast disease misdiagnosed as cancer. Such misdiagnosed patients may undergo unnecessary treatment which can cause significant and long-term side effects.  

Of course, the worst consequence of a missed breast cancer diagnosis is death. Breast cancer is the second leading cause of cancer death in females, surpassed only by lung cancer. In New York, the surviving spouse, children, or personal representative of the decedent’s estate may file a medical malpractice wrongful death lawsuit against the at-fault parties within two years of the decedent’s death date. 

Can a Breast Cancer Biopsy Be Wrong?

Believe it or not, the results of a breast cancer biopsy are not always accurate. A 2015 study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association involving 15 American pathologists and 240 breast biopsy specimens found that biopsy specialists frequently misdiagnose breast cancer and/or fail to diagnose breast cancer. In many cases, this leads to too aggressive treatment or lack of necessary and proper treatment.

The results of the study revealed the following:

  • Only about half of the cases involving abnormal/precancerous cells were diagnosed correctly
  • Approximately one-third of these cases were misdiagnosed as “normal” or “not worrisome”
  • Pathologists misdiagnosed about 13% of normal tissue as abnormal or “suspicious”

While this study was conducted in a research setting and, as a result, contains several flaws, this is not the first study to reveal the difficult nature of accurately analyzing breast biopsies. Previous studies have also shown an alarmingly high rate of inaccuracies in breast cancer biopsies.

It is always recommended that any individual who receives a breast cancer biopsy also obtain a second opinion from a qualified medical professional, particularly if the results come back as precancerous or abnormal.

When to Consider Legal Action 

To prove medical malpractice in a breast cancer misdiagnosis claim, the plaintiff must prove that the defendant owed them a duty of care. This is the case in virtually any relationship between a doctor and a patient.  

You must show that the doctor breached that duty with a breast cancer misdiagnosis that a “reasonably competent” physician would not have misdiagnosed. However, if the doctor’s diagnosis is the same as any competent doctor under identical circumstances, it is hard to prove malpractice. It is your attorney’s job to establish that another similarly qualified doctor would have made a correct diagnosis.  

Next, you must show that the breast cancer misdiagnosis resulted in harm. Finally, that harm may be somewhat compensated for by damages.  

In New York, the statute of limitations for filing a medical malpractice lawsuit is two years and six months. The statute of limitations starts as of the date you learn of the doctor’s misdiagnosis or the date of the last breast cancer treatment.  

What to Expect in a Breast Cancer Misdiagnosis Lawsuit 

Compensation, or damages in breast cancer misdiagnosis settlements may include: 

  • Medical expenses, current and future  
  • Lost wages 
  • Loss of future income  
  • Pain and suffering  
  • Emotional anguish  

Contact a New York Medical Malpractice Lawyer  

At Rheingold Giuffra Ruffo Plotkin & Hellman LLP, our track record in New York medical malpractice lawsuits is second to none. One example is a $2.5 million wrongful death settlement for the survivors of a 58-year-old woman whose breast cancer was not diagnosed or treated in a timely manner.  

Our experienced breast cancer misdiagnosis attorneys frequently work with medical experts to review cases properly. If the misdiagnosis of breast cancer has harmed you or someone you love, it is important to speak with a lawyer as soon as possible. At our firm, we will work with you and your entire family to ensure that your concerns are addressed and your voices are heard. 

While most breast cancer misdiagnosis cases are settled, we will take your case to trial if necessary. Since we work on a contingency basis, there is no fee unless you receive compensation.  

Ready to learn more about what our firm can do for you? Fill out our online form to request a free, no-obligation case evaluation with our compassionate team today.