With nearly 270,000 estimated new cases of invasive breast cancer being diagnosed in 2018, breast cancer is a medical condition that isn't to be taken lightly. Unfortunately for some patients, the risk of dismissal and late diagnosis is very real. When this happens, it can make the difference between the potential for life-saving treatment and a terminal cancer diagnosis. If you have found yourself a victim of late diagnosis due to medical dismissal or previous misdiagnosis, you may be wondering what your legal rights are. Here's a look at what this could mean for you and the potential of a personal injury lawsuit.
How Does Delayed Diagnosis Happen?
There are many different reasons why a patient may face a delayed diagnosis of breast cancer. In some cases, it is due to the patient's own delays, either because of fear or a lack of medical insurance. In those cases, the delayed diagnosis would be your fault, which means that you don't have any grounds for a personal injury or medical malpractice lawsuit.
However, there are other cases of delayed diagnosis that could qualify. For example, if your doctor dismisses a lump in your breast as a cyst without ordering further testing, and you later find that you have late-stage or invasive breast cancer, you may have a case for a personal injury lawsuit.
The same is true if your doctor determines that you may have an early stage tumor but then neglects to do any follow-up in the interest of waiting things out to see how aggressive that tumor may be. In addition, if your doctor diagnoses you with breast cancer but misdiagnoses how aggressive the cancer is and delays or opts for a less-aggressive treatment than would be necessary, this could also leave you eligible for a lawsuit.
What Is The Typical Standard Of Care?
Before you can accurately determine if your doctor is liable for a personal injury case, you need to determine if he or she breached the necessary standard of care for your situation. In order to do that, you have to understand what the standard of care actually is.
If a lump is discovered during a monthly breast exam, your doctor should order a mammogram. If the mammogram confirms the presence of the lump, the next stage is typically an ultrasound to determine what the lump is made of. Hard tissue, such as that of a tumor, appears differently on an ultrasound than fluid, such as the contents of a cyst.
In situations where there is any uncertainty about the composition of the lump, or if it appears to be solid on the ultrasound, your doctor should then suggest a biopsy. During the biopsy, a needle is inserted into your breast to extract tissue or contents from the lump. Those contents are then tested for the presence of cancerous cells.
In some cases, it may be medically advantageous to have the lump removed, even if it doesn't prove to be cancerous in the initial testing. Cases such as family history of breast cancer or the gene mutation that increases your predisposition to cancer are both situations where it's best not to leave it alone.
How Can You Prove Liability?
If you find yourself facing a late-stage or invasive breast cancer diagnosis after your doctor failed to take the lump's presence seriously, you may have a case to prove liability for a personal injury case. You'll want to reach out to a personal injury lawyer, who will request your records and review the situation. Your doctor's notes, paired with any lab records, will prove invaluable for this documentation.