Each year, millions of women undergo routine mammography to help detect and treat early stage breast cancers. Many physicians, unfortunately, follow the “no news is good news” policy with their patients and only contact those patients whose test results warrant further investigation. Many cases involving medical negligence in the area of breast cancer detection result from a physician’s inadvertent failure to contact a patient with positive test results. The patient often interprets the silence as good news, but the delay in treatment can have very serious consequences.
Breast cancer usually originates in the lining of the milk duct, or the lobules, which supply milk to the ducts. If the cancer starts in the ducts it is known as “ductal carcinomas”. On the other hand, if it originates in the lobules it is know as “lobular carcinomas”. Although it is far more common in women, breast cancer can affect men as well.
Screening for breast cancer is common, yet also remains controversial. It’s goal is to detect the cancer early to improve the chances of survival for the patient. There are a wide range of tests that can be used to do this. Clinical exams focus on feeling the breast for any lumps. However, it may not be helpful if the woman is already at risk and does not always result in detection. Mammograms are the other common form of screening, and also the more controversial one. This is because it can cause harm to the patient, as it is an unnecessary medical procedure. Therefore, it is only recommended for older women every other year, and also for women who have risk factors that are associated with the disease.
The main risk factors are being a female and advanced age. Risk associated with age is considered by most to begin at 50. There are also many other factors, which include diet, obesity, high hormone levels and the choice not to have children or breastfeed. In addition, smokers can face a higher risk, which is estimated at 35%-50% higher than nonsmokers. Those who work in an environment with radiation also face an increased risk. There have also been some studies that show a correlation between genetics and breast cancer. However, these cases are a small minority when compared to the total figures.
There are several different treatments that can be used on patients. One of the most common and effective of these is surgery. The most common procedures are mastectomy (total breast removal), quadrectomy (removing one quarter of the breast) and lumpectomy (removing a small portion of the breast). Following these procedures many women choose to have breast reconstruction. In addition to surgery, many medications have been shown to be effective. The use of radiation is also common after surgery.
However, with all of these treatments early detection is key for the survival of the patient. Because of this, if your doctor delayed giving you your diagnosis or failed to complete testing for breast cancer, you may have a case for medical malpractice.
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