Misdiagnosis of Breast Cancer
What is breast cancer? The Basic Facts
(Facts for this article were provided by The American Cancer Society, Inc, Surveillance Research 2015)
Cancer is not one disease, but rather it is a complex group of diseases that cause otherwise once normal cells in the body to change and grow out of control. Most types of cancer cells eventually grow and form a lump, or mass, in the body called a tumor. These tumors are typically named after the part of the body where the tumor originates (i.e. breast cancer, colon cancer, lung cancer, brain cancer, etc.).
Most forms of breast cancers begin in those parts of the breast tissue that make up the glands used for milk production. These glands are called lobules. These lobules are connected by ducts to the nipple. The remaining parts of the breast are made up of fatty, connective, and lymphatic tissues. Lymphatic tissue is a specialized form of reticular connective tissue in the lymphatic system that contains large numbers of lymphocytes, a form of small leukocyte (white blood cell) with a single round nucleus, occurring especially in the lymphatic system.
Breast cancer is typically detected either during a screening examination, before symptoms have developed, or after a woman notices a lump. Most masses seen on a mammogram and most breast lumps turn out to be benign; that is, they are not cancerous, do not grow uncontrollably or spread, and are not life-threatening. When cancer is suspected, microscopic analysis of breast tissue is necessary for a definitive diagnosis and to determine the extent of spread and characterize the type of the disease. The tissue for microscopic analysis can be obtained via a needle or surgical biopsy. Selection of the type of biopsy is based on individual patient clinical factors, availability of particular biopsy devices, and resources.
In situ (in it’s original place)
• Ductal carcinoma refers to a condition where abnormal cells replace the normal epithelial cells of the breast ducts and may greatly expand the ducts and lobules. DCIS is considered a noninvasive form of breast cancer because the abnormal cells have not grown beyond the layer of cells where they originated.
It is the most common type of in situ breast cancer, accounting for about 83% of in situ cases diagnosed during 2008-2012. DCIS (aka: Ductal carcinoma in situ refers to the presence of abnormal cells inside a milk duct in the breast. DCIS is considered the earliest form of breast cancer. DCIS is noninvasive, meaning it hasn’t spread out of the milk duct to invade other parts of the breast) may or may not progress to invasive cancer; in fact, some of these tumors grow so slowly that even without treatment they would not affect a woman’s health.
Long-term studies of women whose DCIS was untreated because it was originally misdiagnosed by a doctor or radiologist as benign found that 20%-53% were diagnosed with an invasive breast cancer over 10 years or more. It is extremely important to address an issue of misdiagnosis. Some of the top new york misdiagnosis of breast cancer lawyers can be found within the Dankner Milstein firms website. Since there is no way to determine the progressive potential of a DCIS lesion, surgery and sometimes radiation and/or hormonal therapy is the usual course of treatment following a diagnosis of DCIS.
• Lobular carcinoma in situ refers to cells that look like cancer cells growing within the lobules of the breast. LCIS is generally not thought to be a precursor of invasive cancer. Instead, it is considered a marker for increased risk for developing invasive cancer. LCIS is much less common than DCIS, accounting for about 13% of female in situ breast cancers diagnosed during 2008-2012.
• Other in situ breast cancers have characteristics of both ductal and lobular carcinomas or have unknown origins.
Most breast cancers are invasive, or infiltrating. These cancers have broken through the walls of the glands or ducts where they originated and grown into surrounding breast tissue. The prognosis of invasive breast cancer is strongly influenced by the stage of the disease – that is, the extent or spread of the cancer when it is first diagnosed.
There are two main staging systems for cancer: The TNM classification of tumors uses information on tumor size and how far it has spread within the breast and to adjacent tissues, the extent of spread to the nearby lymph nodes, and the presence or absence of distant metastasis (the development of secondary malignant growths at a distance from a primary site of cancer). Once the pathology of the cancer is determined,
a stage of 0, I, II, III or IV is assigned, with stage 0 being in situ, stage 1 being early stage invasive cancer, and stage IV being the most advanced disease.
According to the SEER (Summary Staging Manual) which is the most basic reference tool used for categorizing how far a cancer has spread from its point of origin:
• Local stage refers to cancers that are confined to the breast.
• Regional stage refers to tumors that have spread to surrounding tissue or nearby lymph nodes.
• Distant state refers to cancers that have metastasized (spread) to distant organs or lymph nodes above the collarbone.
Although we generally refer to breast cancer as a single disease, it is important to note that it is distinguished by up to 21 distinct histological (Histology is the study of the microscopic structures of cells and tissues of plants and animals. It is often carried out by examining a thin slice called a “section” of tissue under a light microscope or an electron microscope) and at least four different molecular sub-types, which are biologically variable in presentation, respond to treatment and outcomes, and are also associated with distinct risk factors.
What are the signs and symptoms of breast cancer?
Breast cancer typically produces no symptoms when the tumor is small and most are easily treated. Therefore, it is very important for women to follow recommended screening guidelines for detecting breast cancer at an early stage. When breast cancer has grown to a size that can be felt, the most common physical sign is a painless lump. Sometimes breast cancer can spread to underarm lymph nodes and cause a lump or swelling, even before the original breast tumor is large enough to be felt. Less common signs and symptoms include breast pain or heaviness; persistent changes to the breast, such as swelling, thickening, or redness of the breast’s skin; and nipple abnormalities such as spontaneous discharge (especially if bloody), erosion, or retraction. It is important to note that pain (or lack thereof) does not indicate the presence or the absence of breast cancer. Any persistent change in the breast should be evaluated by a physician as soon as possible. A misdiagnosis of breast cancer is a very serious issue and is best dealt with through the use of lawyers.
Disclaimer: The above is not to be construed or interpreted as medical opinion. It is for informational purposes only.
If you think you have been the victim of a failure, delay or misdiagnosis of breast cancer, you should contact one of our lawyers at Dankner Milstein for a free consultation at 212-751-8000.
Or visit us online at: firstname.lastname@example.org. Our firm has recovered more than $500 million for clients we’ve represented; and has secured more than two hundred (200) verdicts and settlements of one million dollars or higher.
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