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Breast cancer is probably the most oftenreported medical negligence claim involving women. It can be defined as a new and abnormal formation of tissue as a tumor or growth. Tumors can be malignant or benign. Malignant tumors are cancerous. The tumor grows at the expense of the healthy organism. The growth infiltrates the tissue, spreads (metastasizes) and often reoccurs after attempts at surgical removal. Breast cancer is the most common malignancy among women and accounts for 27% of all cancers and 18 % of all cancer deaths. While breast cancer is one of the most common cancers it is also fortunately one of the most treatable of all human malignancies. For this reason, a failure to properly diagnose cancer is a significant breach in medical care. Delay in the diagnosis of breast cancer arises in several contexts: (1) the physician's failure to appropriately evaluate a complaint of a palpable mass, (2) failure to properly read a mammogram, (3) inappropriate reliance upon a negative mammogram in the face of a palpable mass, and (4) failure to perform additional tests such as aspiration biopsy and/or open biopsy of a mass. These are the most common ways in which physicians commit malpractice in connection with breast cancer.
Ovarian cancer is the most frequent cause of gynecologic cancer death because cases are detected in advanced stages of the disease. Late detection is caused because of an absence of any specific symptom while the disease is still localized, as well as the lack of effective strategies for prevention or screening. This means that by the time the diagnosis is made, it is at an advanced stage. Nearly 1 woman in 70 will develop the disease. Over the past 25 years there has been a steady increase in the ovarian cancer rate. As with other forms of cancer, the plaintiff can only recover significant damages if the disease is discovered at an early stage. Unfortunately, in 75% of all patients, ovarian cancer has spread beyond the ovary at the time of diagnosis. The ultimate legal question with regard to the diagnosis of ovarian cancer is whether, when the physicians saw the patient, the diagnosis should not have been missed in light of the available developmental facts.
Cancer of the cervix can be detected reliably by obtaining a Pap smear. The American Cancer Society recommends that a Pap smear be obtained every 3 years after 2 negative Pap smears were obtained at yearly intervals. Many gynecologists recommend yearly Pap smears. Cancer of the cervix is the third most frequent of the female cancers. Pap smears are read by laboratories, and it is important to examine old Pap smears to find out of they were properly read by the evaluator. Cervical cancer, which is identified early, has an excellent prognosis. The prognosis worsens with each advancing stage of the disease.
A patient cannot and should not sue a physician for the mere development of cancer, but a patient can bring a viable claim for the increased risk of harm resulting from the failure to diagnose and treat the cancer in a timely fashion. It is important to realize that a plaintiff alleging a failure to diagnose cancer has the same burden of proof as in any other medical malpractice lawsuit.
This article is intended to be helpful and informative. But even common legal matters can become complex and stressful. A qualified medical malpractice lawyer can address your particular legal needs, explain the law, and represent you in court. Take the first step now and contact a local medical malpractice attorney to discuss your specific legal situation.