Breast Cancer Diagnosis: Understanding the Standard of Care
Breast cancer, as we often hear, strikes one in eight women during their lifetime. You'd be hard pressed to find someone who hasn't had a friend or relative diagnosed with breast cancer—or been diagnosed herself. Because so many of us have witnessed the effects of breast cancer on our loved ones, it's understandable that anyone would dread hearing the words “you have breast cancer.”
The good news is that with an increased emphasis on early detection, and improving technology, more breast cancers are being caught early, when they are most treatable, and survival rates are higher than ever. Women breathe a huge sigh of relief when they receive the news that their breast cancer screening was “normal.”
The great majority of the time, when a breast cancer screening indicates that all is well, it is. But sometimes, a doctor or medical technician fails to notice something he or she should have, and a cancer goes undetected, sometimes until it's too late. When a medical professional fails to do something that a reasonable professional in the same or similar circumstances would have done, we say that he or she has violated the “standard of care.”
What is the Standard of Care for Breast Cancer Diagnosis?
The standard of care for breast cancer diagnosis will vary depending on the patient and her (or his) circumstances. Age and other risk factors, such as a family history of breast cancer, can affect what types of tests and screening tools are recommended. The important question is, “Would a reasonable doctor have made this choice for this particular patient?”
There are two primary ways in which the standard of care can be breached: failing to order a type of test, screening tool, or follow-up that a reasonable doctor would have ordered under the circumstances, and failing to correctly interpret the results of a mammogram, biopsy, or other test. There are also other ways in which the standard of care can be breached, such as failing to notify a patient of a test result that needs further action—something that is clearly unreasonable.
The standard of care is case-specific, meaning that what is recommended for one patient might not be appropriate or necessary for another. It's best to consult with an experienced Portland medical malpractice attorney to decide if your doctor or radiologist breached the standard of care in your case.
What's at Stake with Failure to Diagnose Breast Cancer?
Metastatic breast cancer, in which cancer has spread beyond the breast, is treatable, but not curable. Every day, approximately 110 women die of breast cancer, and every year, 400 men die of breast cancer. When patients come to a physician or clinic with concerns about breast health or for a routine screening, they deserve to be able to trust their health care providers. If something is wrong, the patient should be given the best possible chance to preserve his or her life, body, and health. When a medical care provider falls down on the obligation to provide that chance, they should be held responsible.
As anyone who has ever met—or been—a breast cancer patient knows, breast cancer doesn't just affect the patient; its effects ripple through the whole family. If you believe that a doctor failed to diagnose you or someone in your family with breast cancer when they should have done so, we invite you to contact Huegli Fraser for a consultation. We will listen to your concerns, explain how the law may apply to your case, and explore legal options that may be available to you. You've done everything possible to protect your health and family; let us help to protect your rights and future.
The information in this blog post is provided for informational purposes only and is not intended to be legal advice. You should not make a decision whether or not to contact a qualified medical malpractice attorney based upon the information in this blog post. No attorney-client relationship is formed nor should any such relationship be implied. If you require legal advice, please consult with a competent medical malpractice attorney licensed to practice in your jurisdiction.