The Journal of Clinical Oncology reported recently that the delayed or misdiagnosis of certain types of cancer, not only breast cancer which is the one most often cited in news reports, but many other forms of cancer with often lethal outcomes, are fast approaching the 45 percent mark. Which is not to say that breast cancer delayed or misdiagnosis isn’t a growing problem. It is. According to The American Cancer Society, approximately 250,000 new cases of invasive breast cancer were diagnosed in 2011. And while a quarter of those cases were diagnosed in the early, non-invasive stage, the Society reported that more than 40,000 women died from breast cancer that year as a result of a delayed or misdiagnosis of the disease.
The Centers for Disease Control cites breast cancer as the most common cancer death among women. And the death rate doesn’t discriminate. Breast cancer is the leading cause of cancer death among women of all races in the USA.
“Delayed and misdiagnosis of breast cancer is a growing problem in this country” according to Edward P. Milstein, a partner in the top New York medical malpractice law firm of Dankner Milstein, P.C. “Physicians who specialize in the detection of breast cancer using mammography technologies actually have a very low error rate – as low as 3 percent according to The National Cancer Institute”
“The serious problem,” he added, “with delayed or misdiagnosis of breast cancer are oftentimes a result of errors made by other physicians who lack the knowledge, experience and correct specialization to identify breast cancer in a staggering 71 percent of the cases.
Typically, when aggregated reports about cases of deaths due to delayed or misdiagnosis of cancer are reported in the media, as was a study reported recently in The New YorkTimes, the articles tend to focus on the degree of difficulty in diagnosing the disease.
In this particular instance, the Times article cited both outright error on the part of the treating physician and a surprisingly high incidence of disagreement among treating physicians over whether a cluster of cells in patients are benign or malignant.
Drawing conclusions from studies provided to the Times by some the organizations listed earlier, among other research organizations that track this data, the Times reported that up to 17 percent of ductal carcinoma in situ cases, which are identified using a needle biopsy, may be misdiagnosed. When breast cancer diagnosis is delayed, or incorrectly diagnosed, the prognosis for effective treatment and the outcomes of patients’ prognosis are adversely affected.
Another very telling report published last year entitled, “Diagnositc Errors – The Next Frontier for Patient Safety,” revealed that delayed or missed diagnoses of breast cancer resulted in 40,000 to 80,000 hospital deaths annually. The report further cited that approximately 5 percent of autopsies found clinically significant conditions that were missed and, had they been treated sooner, could have resulted in the patient’s survival.
In a recent report from yet another top university study, the medical community is tackling a record number of breast cancer cases again this year, including a significant number of cases that were originally delayed or misdiagnosed. But the harsh reality is that on average more than 20% of the cases of breast cancer doctors see have initially received the wrong diagnosis. Sixty percent of those cases require corrected treatment.
“We have the most advanced treatment modalities and medical technology than at any time in history,” Milstein said, “and yet it’s harder than ever for patients to get the proper care.”
Some studies blame doctor errors on overloaded work schedules – what’s known in hospital jargon in known as the “revolving door dynamic” where patients are shuttled in and out of their doctors office in 15 minutes or less. Some doctors see up to 25-to-30 patients a day, that’s approximately 150 patients a week.
Rushed conditions results in health professionals’ failure to pick up on the early warning signs of a condition, or a failure to detect a suspicious lump during a routine breast examination. Prescribing appropriate tests, such as CT scans, MRI, ultrasound scan or biopsy are sometimes overlooked. Pathology tests are misread, which happens more often than people realize.
“Medicine is as much an art as it is a science,” Milstein said. And sometimes it just boils down to doctors not taking the time to listen carefully to the a patient’s subtle signals and get into the ins and outs of the patient’s medical history.”
If you think you have been the victim of medical malpractice, you should contact one of our midtown Manhattan lawyers at Dankner Milstein for a free consultation at 212-751-8000 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
We are rated nationally in the top tier in medical malpractice litigation by Best Lawyers in America and all name partners have been consistently elected by their peers as New York ”Super Lawyers as well as members of “The National Top 100 Trial Lawyers.”