Less-Common Signs of Breast Cancer: Did Your Doctor Miss Them?
In recent decades, awareness of breast cancer has increased, thanks in part to "pink ribbon" campaigns, breast cancer walks, and other programs designed to alert women (and men) to the signs of breast cancer and options for treatment. Treatment, too, has advanced, so that now, survival rates have greatly increased. The average five-year survival rate is 90%; this number goes up to 99% if the cancer is confined to the breast and has not spread. The majority of cases, perhaps in part because of an emphasis on early detection, are caught at this stage. The ten-year survival rate for people diagnosed with breast cancer is 83%. Most people know to be alert for a lump in the breast and to seek a consultation with their doctor if they find one. However, there are other early signs of breast cancer that you may not know. Your doctor should, however. Did your doctor miss one of the less common signs of breast cancer?
Misdiagnosis of breast cancer, or failure to diagnose the disease, can occur in a number of ways. A doctor may fail to order appropriate testing based on a patient's reported symptoms or observable signs of illness. A doctor may also order testing, but it may be negligently performed. If testing is properly performed, a physician may misinterpret the results, leading to incorrect treatment or no treatment at all. In any of these scenarios, a patient may go without treatment for months or even years. Lack of timely treatment may lead to an early death that should have been preventable, or for a more difficult and painful course of treatment.
Lesser-Known Signs of Breast Cancer
You may have gone in to see your doctor because you felt a breast lump, or you may have seen your doctor for an annual checkup. Many signs of breast cancer other than a lump are detectable by a routine breast examination in your doctor's office, and any of these should indicate the need for further testing. While these may be less common than a breast lump, they are not uncommon, and a doctor should be aware that they could indicate breast cancer.
Some of these symptoms include skin changes, such as a dimpling of the skin that resembles an orange peel or flaky, itchy skin; inversion (inward turning) of the nipple; discharge from the nipple other than milk; and swelling. Breast pain is not apparent to the eye, but is a potential sign of breast cancer that some patients report to their physician or exhibit on physical examination.
Of course, all of these symptoms may be the result of conditions other than breast cancer. The only way to know for sure is for the doctor to order, and correctly interpret, appropriate tests. These may include mammography, ultrasound (which shows whether a lump is fluid-filled, and likely a benign cyst, or solid), and breast biopsy. Some biopsy can be done by needle aspiration or other minimally invasive procedures. Of course, if any of the testing indicates that cancer may be present, further procedures will be necessary to determine the severity of the disease and the appropriate course of treatment.
If Your Doctor Missed Signs of Breast Cancer
If your doctor missed some of the less-common signs of breast cancer, leading to a missed or delayed diagnosis, the error may constitute medical malpractice. Medical malpractice is more than just a mistake. Medical malpractice involves a duty of care, such as that which a doctor owes a patient. If the doctor breaches that duty by acting in a way that a reasonable doctor in a similar situation would not act, and the patient suffers damages as a result, malpractice has been committed.
These damages could involve increased pain, unnecessary disfigurement, increased medical bills, loss of function, and even a shortened life span. Of course, no amount of money can compensate adequately for these losses. But if they are the result of medical malpractice, you may be entitled to financial compensation to help with your expenses and your family's needs. Medical malpractice awards also hold doctors and medical facilities accountable so that they will be less likely to hurt someone else in the future.
If you believe that your doctor missed signs of breast cancer, or did not adequately test you after you reported symptoms, you should consult with an experienced Oregon medical malpractice attorney. Our skilled attorneys will evaluate the strength of your case and give you a candid assessment of whether it would be worthwhile for you to pursue a claim. You have only a limited time to file a claim for medical malpractice in Oregon, and if you miss that window, it closes forever. That is why you should get the information you need as soon as possible, so you can protect your right to seek compensation if appropriate.
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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.