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Mammogram errors can cause misdiagnosis of cancer

| Mar 4, 2016 | Failure to Diagnose

Mammograms are a diagnostic imaging tool that medical personnel use to detect and evaluate changes in breast tissue that may indicate cancer is present or may be present in the future. These procedures are regularly encouraged by national cancer societies and medical organizations and are commonly seen as the only way a breast cancer diagnosis can be caught in time. However, the staff at Futterman, Sirotkin & Seinfed, LLP know that these tests are often improperly done or misread, leading to a potential misdiagnosis.

Mammography takes skilled technicians to both take and read the images it produces. For this reason, the American College of Radiologists has designed the Breast Imaging Reporting and Data System to help with classification of the images and reduce errors. However, even with this system in place, the diagnostic tool is not fully reliable. According to Susan G. Komen, mammography misses 16 percent of breast cancer under regular conditions and up to 30 percent when certain other factors come into play, such as increased breast density. Human error only adds to the instances where patients are not receiving an accurate diagnosis.

Hospitals can make some significant errors when taking and reading mammograms. Radiologists may improperly deem a patient clear of suspicion for cancer simply because they only looked for lumps. Although they are an obvious symptom of cancer, they are not the only indication that there may be a problem. For example, skin thickness, uneven tissue density and nipples that pull inward can all indicate that cancer is present.

Additionally, physicians can fail to look at all the symptoms a patient is displaying and rely too completely on mammogram results, which may generate a false negative. They may also forgo further testing to confirm their suspicions after an abnormal mammogram is found. Both these instances may result in increased time before treatment starts, which can have a large impact on whether or not a cancer is caught in time, as well as patient outcome. To learn more about this topic, please see our web page.

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