Breast cancer misdiagnosis: a leading cause of radiologists’ malpractice

The radiologist plays an important role in the war against breast cancer. Patients rely on him or her to competently identify any cancers as early as possible in order to have the best chances of recovery. Unfortunately, a recent study found that most of the medical malpractice lawsuits against radiologists are filed because of breast cancer misdiagnosis.

The study, published in the journal Radiology, examined 4,793 malpractice lawsuits filed in 47 states against 2,680 radiologists. It found that the majority of lawsuits were filed because the radiologist did not detect lesions that were visible on mammography scans.

Since the radiologist did not see the cancer on the scan, he or she did not recommend further testing that probably would have confirmed the presence of cancer. This chain of events ultimately resulted in breast cancer that went untreated, which allowed it to spread across the body, making it less responsive to treatment when discovered later.

In addition to a failure to detect lesions on scans, radiologists are also often sued because of a failure to communicate with the treating or referring physician. Sometimes the patient may visit a radiologist with palpable lesions that were discovered by the referring physician, however the physician did not adequately inform the radiologist of the lesions, unbeknownst to the patient. As a result, the radiologist fails to diagnose the lesion or does not follow up with tests that would rule out cancer.

The Radiology study comes as the number of women who are diagnosed with advanced or incurable breast cancer is steadily increasing. According to the American Medical Association, metastatic breast cancer-cancer that has spread to other parts of the body-has increased among women between the ages of 25 and 39 about 3.6 percent each year for the last decade.

Consult an attorney

According to the American Cancer Society, by the time that breast cancer exhibits symptoms, it has likely already spread to other parts of the body, making successful treatment less likely. Therefore, early detection can significantly increase the survival rate. When a radiologist fails to detect lesions at their early stages, unfortunately, his or her failure can result in the patient's death.

In New York, a failure to diagnose a disease like cancer can constitute medical malpractice. Victims of malpractice are entitled to recover expenses such as loss of earnings, medical bills and pain and suffering. If you or a loved one has suffered because of a physician's failure to diagnose a condition, contact an experienced medical malpractice attorney to learn more about your right to compensation.