Women in New York have probably heard at least once that it is important for them to get a regular mammogram, or breast x-ray, once they reach a certain age.
The reason is that doctors can use this test to identify breast cancer early on.
If doctors detect breast cancer early, they can respond with aggressive treatment that usually ends successfully in that the patient survives and can go on with life.
Proper screening and early detection makes breast cancer easier to treat
The point behind mammograms and other screenings for breast cancer is to detect the disease before other symptoms develop.
At its early stage, the cancerous tumor usually has metastasized, that is, spread to the other parts of a woman’s body. It is also likely not to have grown to the point where it is harder to treat.
Patients are not the only ones responsible for early detection
Of course, women should be proactive about getting screened for breast cancer, especially if they are at high risk for developing the condition.
However, proper screening and vigilance are only effective if doctors and other medical professionals do their jobs properly.
Specifically, doctors and others have to perform preliminary breast exams carefully so they can timely recommend further diagnosis and treatment. They also must listen to what their patients tell them and follow up.
It is also important for these professionals to perform and analyze tests like mammograms and biopsies carefully.
Careless mistakes can lead to a misdiagnosis or delayed diagnosis
After all, if a doctor makes a mistake at an initial exam or during a follow up test, then the doctor may misdiagnose the patient or only find the breast cancer months or years down the road.
This loss of valuable time can mean the difference between a relatively mild treatment and more painful treatments like full mastectomies and chemo. In some cases, this delay can be fatal.