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Breast Cancer Misdiagnosis
Queller, Fisher, Washor, Fuchs And Kool And The Law Office Of William A. Gallina, LLP

BREAST CANCER LAWYER NEW YORK

BREAST CANCER MISDIAGNOSIS

At Queller, Fisher, Washor, Fuchs & Kool And The Law Office Of William A. Gallina, LLP, our breast cancer misdiagnosis lawyers in New York understand the severity of this horrific disease. Breast cancer is responsible for killing over 30,000 women each year. While the number of deaths caused by breast cancer each year is enormous, many more women are saved because a doctor diagnosed their disease early enough for effective treatment. As a result, the lives of thousands of women each year rest in a doctor's ability to detect and treat breast cancer.

However, when a doctor fails to detect or misdiagnoses breast cancer, the consequences can be life-altering. In some cases, a doctor's misdiagnosis may have been the result of negligence. When a doctor's negligence leads to a misdiagnosis, the victim may be able to file a medical malpractice lawsuit to recoup compensation for damages. Our lawyers are committed to helping victims and their families whose lives have been permanently altered by misdiagnoses. Our firm is determined to help our clients get their lives back on track and will pursue maximum compensation for them in court.

Breast Cancer Is Among The Most Common Life-Altering Diseases In The United States

Breast cancer is a life-altering diagnosis – one whose high incidence rate means it touches almost everyone's life in some way. Approximately 12.3 percent of American women will be diagnosed with breast cancer at some point during their lives – roughly 1 out of 8 women. While advances in treatment, early detection and increased awareness have led to positive outcomes, breast cancer remains the third leading cause of cancer-related deaths in America.

What Are The Methods Of Breast Cancer Detection?

Breast cancer, broadly speaking, may involve the milk ducts or the breast tissue itself, called lobules. Cancer of the ducts is referred to as ductal, whereas cancer of the breast tissue is referred to as lobular. Both types of cancer may either be contained (known as “in situ”) or invasive. Methods for screening and early detection for both types of breast cancer are similar. They include:

  • Clinical breast examination
  • Self-exam
  • Mammography
  • Additional breast imaging, such as a sonogram or MRI scan

Proper Testing By Physicians Is The Key To Avoiding A Breast Cancer Misdiagnosis

A breast exam performed by a physician is a key component in breast cancer detection. A gynecologist or other primary care provider properly performing a breast examination may feel or observe changes in the breasts that warrant further testing. A clinical breast exam is a very accurate method of detecting palpable abnormalities (i.e. those capable of being felt).

Not all lumps, masses or lesions that are felt in the breast are cancer. Most are not cancer; many lumps are simply benign cysts, which are very common and generally not related to breast cancer. Of particular concern, however, are lumps which do not come-and-go, (especially with changes in the menstrual cycle), get larger or grow over time, are hard or feel fixed to the tissue.

How Can A Mammogram Help Diagnose Breast Cancer?

A mammogram is an x-ray study of the breasts. The modality's strength is its ability to detect calcium deposits, referred to as calcifications. While usually benign, calcifications may also be an early sign of breast cancer and can be viewed by mammography before the cancer forms a palpable mass, allowing for earlier treatment. Of particular concern are so-called “microcalcifications” grouped in a cluster.

Mammography varies between screening studies and diagnostic studies. The screening mammogram is the standard 2 view test performed annually. The breasts are x-rayed from 2 views: cranial-caudal (top-down) and medial-lateral-oblique (roughly 45 degree angle from the center of the chest out towards the armpit). Diagnostic mammography is an additional x-ray study performed because of some abnormality. Additional views may be taken, such as true-lateral, where the imaging is done horizontally across the breast. More importantly, perhaps, are magnification and compression views that can achieve a more specific view of the area of question. The compression view is particularly important because a cancerous mass will oftentimes not press out under pressure, whereas a non-cancerous mass may.

How Can A Sonogram Help Diagnose Breast Cancer?

Sonography is also an important screening tool. Breast cysts are common. These fluid-filled masses may come and go during a woman's menstrual cycle. They are typically benign and generally insignificant to the woman's health. It is, however, difficult to distinguish between cysts and cancerous masses on mammography. Sonography is performed by sending sound-waves through the breast tissue. The fluid-filled cysts will react differently to the sound-waves than a cancerous mass. Sonography can tell the difference between a benign cyst and what could be a malignant mass. It is also useful in evaluating women with dense breast tissue.

How Can An MRI Help Diagnose Breast Cancer?

An MRI scan may be used in breast cancer detection, though its value remains limited; this is because it may produce uncertain findings and cannot detect calcifications. Under specific circumstances, however, a breast MRI may be helpful in obtaining more information about a suspicious area or one that is already known to be cancerous. For example, an MRI scan may be used to evaluate a palpable mass that cannot be seen on a sonogram or mammogram or to further evaluate an area of dense breast tissue. An MRI scan can also locate a cancerous mass in the breast, known to be there due to cancer cells in an axillary lymph node (armpit), that is not felt or revealed on other imaging. MRIs are also useful to determine whether breast cancer is "multicentric," meaning it is not limited to 1 area. Whether cancer is multicentric affects the treatment options. This is especially important for invasive lobular cancers which are more likely to be multicentric. An MRI scan should be used, according to the American Cancer Society, when breast cancer is detected in 1 breast to evaluate the other breast for cancer. An MRI scan is also recommended for women with silicone breast implants because it can detect silicone leakage from an implant.

How Can A Biopsy Help Diagnose Breast Cancer?

Once a suspicious area is noted via breast imaging, the next step is generally a breast biopsy. Detection methods like clinical breast exams, mammograms or sonograms do not actually diagnose breast cancer. Rather, it is only with a biopsy that breast cancer is truly diagnosed.

There are a few different types of breast biopsies.

Fine Needle Aspiration Biopsy: During fine need aspiration, a thin needle is inserted into the area and fluid or tissue is pulled into the syringe; the sample is then looked at by a pathologist under a microscope to see if cancer cells are present. If the area to be biopsied has a lump or other mass that can be felt, the doctor can locate the area and perform the biopsy. If the biopsy area does not contain a palpable mass or lesion, the doctor can perform an ultrasound-guided biopsy or stereotactic needle biopsy.

Ultrasound-Guided Biopsy: During an ultrasound-guided biopsy, the doctor uses ultrasound technology to guide the needle to the area to be biopsied.

Stereotactic Needle Biopsy: During a stereotactic needle biopsy, computers use mammograms to map the exact location to be biopsied.

Core Needle Biopsy: During a core needle biopsy, a needle is inserted into the area of concern. This needle, however, is larger and is used to draw cylinders or "cores" of tissue from the area. The needle may be inserted multiple times to sample different areas of the lump or area being biopsied.

Vacuum-Assisted Core Biopsy: During this type of biopsy, a small cut in the skin is made to allow a hollow probe to be inserted. The probe is guided to the biopsy area via x-rays, ultrasound or MRI. The probe then draws in tissue from an opening in its side, where a rotating knife in the probe then cuts off a tissue sample.

Surgical Or Open Biopsy: During this type of biopsy, an area of breast tissue is surgically removed. There are 2 types: an incisional biopsy (in which a part of the area is removed for analysis) and an excisional biopsy (in which the entire area is removed, along with a border of normal tissue). Prior to a surgical biopsy, a wire may be placed via a needle to aid the surgeon. This is particularly useful when the mass or lesion cannot be felt, but looks suspicious on a mammogram. Once the tissue is removed, the surgeon may place and leave a "clip" or other marker in the area for future reference.

Many Breast Cancer Misdiagnoses Are The Result Of A Doctor's Negligence

Many women are denied the benefits of treatment advances, early detection and increased awareness due to the negligence of the very doctors entrusted with their health and well-being. The evidence is clear that early detection saves women's lives and gives them the best chance of less invasive, less drastic treatments. It is truly tragedy piled on misfortune when the very physicians relied upon to screen and detect breast cancer fail in their task.

Medical negligence may occur in this context when a gynecologist or other primary care provider fails to either detect or properly follow-up regarding a suspicious breast mass. Too often, our breast cancer misdiagnosis lawyers have seen cases in which a woman's doctor failed to recognize a concerning mass, or, perhaps even more troubling, failed to obtain the necessary medical exams and analysis for a suspicious mass. Our attorneys have seen too many instances in which the physician notes a breast mass during a clinical breast exam, but then either decides simply to "watch" it or has his or her suspicions satisfied by mammography that does not note a suspicious mass or lesion.

For example, our attorneys won a substantial award for the family of a mother of 2 in her forties who died from breast cancer. A suspicious lump was discovered during a clinical breast exam, but was not biopsied. In another case, our attorneys obtained a significant award for a woman in her sixties who endured mastectomy, chemotherapy and radiation therapy; her primary care doctor noted a suspicious lump during a breast exam, but just decided to watch it after the mammogram was read as “normal.” If a suspicious mass or lesion is felt during a breast exam, there must be a referral to a breast specialist for further analysis – even if tests like mammography or sonography do not note a suspicious area.

Our breast cancer misdiagnosis attorneys in New York have also seen cases of medical malpractice where mammograms or sonograms were misread – meaning the test showed suspicious areas or markings, but the radiologist interpreting the tests failed to note them. In many cases, our lawyers have obtained substantial awards for women or their families where mammograms showed concerning signs that were misread by the radiologist.

In a particularly egregious case, the radiologist admitted, when pressed by our lawyers, that the mammogram indeed showed a suspicious lesion that should be biopsied, but he disregarded it because he assumed it was merely scar tissue from a prior biopsy. The story fell apart, however, when the radiologist also had to admit that prior mammograms did not show this supposed "scar tissue." These cases are particularly worrisome because one of the best opportunities for early detection has been missed and the physician who ordered the test in the first place could be misled as to the proper follow-up.

Breast Cancer Misdiagnosis Lawyers

Did Negligence Cause Your Breast Cancer Misdiagnosis?

While a misdiagnosis can be grounds for a lawsuit, this is not always the case. In order to have a valid claim, the patient whose breast cancer was misdiagnosed must be able to prove that their doctor acted negligently. To prove negligence, the injured patient must be able to show that the doctor violated their duty of care. A duty of care is a legal obligation that an individual has to act with a certain degree of caution when performing potentially dangerous tasks. In the medical field, doctors have a duty of care to uphold the acceptable standard of care of the medical profession. Upholding the acceptable standard of care means that a doctor must use the same degree of caution as another competent physician in the same practice area. For instance, if a patient displays certain signs and symptoms of breast cancer, and most other physicians would order a mammogram, the patient's doctor is expected to order a mammogram in order to uphold their duty of care. If a doctor fails to order a mammogram in the aforementioned situation, they may have violated their duty of care and therefore acted negligently. Negligence is not, however, in and of itself grounds for a lawsuit.

In addition to proving negligence, sick patients must be able to show that their doctor's error was directly responsible for their misdiagnosis. Essentially, if a doctor acts negligently, but that negligence did not contribute to their misdiagnosis of the patient's breast cancer, they cannot be found liable. Causation and negligence, while necessary for a valid claim, do not necessarily present the sick patient with the opportunity to recoup compensation through a lawsuit.

While causation and negligence are necessary for a medical malpractice lawsuit, the patient or their family must also have suffered damages to have a valid case. Damages are any economic or emotional losses caused by the sickness. For instance, economic damages can range from lost wages to medical bills caused by the patient's cancer. Non-economic damages are any pain and suffering caused by the misdiagnosis.

How Do Lawyers Determine Liability In Breast Cancer Misdiagnosis Cases?

The American College of Radiology developed BI-RADS ("breast imaging reporting and data system") as a reporting system to facilitate and standardize communication from the radiologist reading a mammogram to the gynecologist or another doctor who ordered the test. It is a numerical system from 0 to 6.

BI-RADS Category 0: This means additional imaging evaluation or comparison to prior mammograms is needed. This is used when a possible abnormality is not clearly seen, thereby warranting further tests.

BI-RADS Category 1: This is "negative," meaning there is nothing abnormal to report.

BI-RADS Category 2: This is benign, meaning there are findings but they are not suggestive of cancer.

BI-RADS Category 3: This is used for a likely-benign finding; there is a very high chance that what is seen is not cancer, but the patient should return sooner than usual for follow-up imaging.

BI-RADS Category 4: This means there is a suspicious abnormality which could be cancerous and a biopsy should be considered.

BI-RADS Category 5: This denotes a finding that is highly suggestive of malignancy; that is, based on the appearance, there is at least a 95% chance there is cancer and a biopsy is strongly recommended.

BI-RADS Category 6: This is used to denote a known biopsy-proven malignancy. This is useful, for example, to observe how a cancer is responding to pre-operative chemotherapy and whether it is "shrinking."

If a radiologist misreads a mammogram, an inappropriate BI-RADS category will be assigned and presented to the ordering physician. That doctor then, relying on the wrong interpretation of the mammogram, will not properly counsel the patient or initiate proper follow-up care or treatment. This may then lead to a delay in treatment and injury to the patient.

Medical malpractice cases involving breast cancer present several complicated issues.

The first issue is always whether or not there was a departure or deviation from the generally accepted standard of care. Did the doctors involved perform as was reasonably expected by other doctors under similar circumstances?

The second issue involves whether or not the doctor's negligence deprive the patient of a substantial opportunity for a better outcome. If, for example, the patient on diagnosis had an advanced stage cancer requiring a total mastectomy, removal of lymph nodes, chemotherapy and radiation therapy, but the cancer was "missed" at an earlier stage when the patient had the chance to avoid mastectomy, lymph node removal, chemotherapy and radiation therapy, then it can be said that the malpractice proximately caused injury to the patient.

The third issue relates to the damage to the patient. Plainly, if the patient has passed away, then there has been significant damage or injury. When the patient survives, the injuries or damages relate to treatments that could have been avoided. For example, a patient may have avoided having a total mastectomy if her cancer had been detected earlier. It may also be that with earlier treatment, the patient could have avoided having axillary lymph nodes (in the armpit) removed (called an axillary dissection or sampling).

The delay in diagnosis may also impact the stage in which the cancer is identified, which in turn changes the patient's risk of recurrence and chance of survival. Breast cancer is staged from I (1) to IV (4), with sub-divisions within the stages. Differences in the stages are important because the stage guides the treatment options, as well as predicting the patient's risk of recurrence and prognosis for survival. If a patient's cancer has moved to a higher stage during the delay in diagnosis, her risk of recurrence may increase and her chances for survival decrease; this too would be considered injury and damage.

Hiring Experts Is Essential To Proving Breast Cancer Was Misdiagnosed

Breast cancer lawsuits involve many different types of experts to prove the case.

Gynecologist: A gynecology expert may be needed to discuss the standards applicable to clinical breast examination and follow-up.

Radiologist: A radiologist (preferably one who specializes in women's breast imaging) is needed to evaluate the mammograms or sonograms.

Breast Surgeon Or Surgical Oncologist: A breast surgeon or surgical oncologist is then needed to describe how, if at all, earlier treatment would have possibly avoided the patient's ultimate outcome, whether that was more extensive treatment or death. The breast surgeon or surgical oncologist will also evaluate how, if at all, the patient's survival rate was affected by the delay in diagnosis.

If there are questions concerning the chemotherapy or radiation therapy, additional experts may also be needed. Our breast cancer misdiagnosis lawyers will employ numerous experts to help our clients secure the compensation they may be entitled.

Our New York Lawyers Handle Misdiagnoses & Failure To Diagnose Cases

Unfortunately, misdiagnoses of breast cancer are often fatal. As a result, the family of a deceased patient may be able to file a wrongful death lawsuit against the doctor who misdiagnosed their loved one. In a wrongful death lawsuit, a victim's family can receive compensation for any damages incurred by their loved one's death. Families may be able to receive economic damages for lost wages, cost of medical bills before death and funeral costs. Furthermore, families may be able to receive compensation for non-economic damages, such as pain and suffering before death, loss of consortium and loss of parental guidance. Our attorneys have been handling breast cancer misdiagnosis cases for over 60 years. We understand the pain that is caused when a doctor's error causes a loved one to lose their life. As a result, we strive to ease the financial burden created by a loved one's death. Our firm has obtained a number of successful verdicts and settlements, many of which have numbered in the millions.*

Breast Cancer Misdiagnosis Attorneys

How Do I Schedule A Legal Consultation Regarding A Breast Cancer Misdiagnosis?

If you or someone you love has suffered harm due to a breast cancer misdiagnosis, you may be entitled to compensation. For a free consultation with our breast cancer misdiagnosis lawyers in New York, call our Manhattan office at 212.406.1700, our Bronx office at 718.892.0400 or contact us online. We will review your case and discuss your legal options with you. The attorneys at Queller, Fisher, Washor, Fuchs & Kool And The Law Office Of William A. Gallina, LLP take all cases on a contingency fee basis, meaning our services are free of charge unless there is a monetary recovery. Our law firm is proud to serve the New York City area, including the Bronx, Brooklyn, Manhattan, Queens and Staten Island, as well as the surrounding counties and New Jersey. We offer legal services in English, Spanish, Portuguese, French and Chinese.

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*PRIOR RESULTS CANNOT AND DO NOT GUARANTEE OR PREDICT A SIMILAR OUTCOME WITH RESPECT TO ANY FUTURE MATTER, INCLUDING YOURS, IN WHICH A LAWYER OR LAW FIRM MAY BE RETAINED. VERDICTS ARE SUBJECT TO REDUCTION AND MODIFICATION ON APPEAL.

*AV PREEMINENT AND BV DISTINGUISHED ARE CERTIFICATION MARKS OF REED ELSEVIER PROPERTIES INC., USED IN ACCORDANCE WITH THE MARTINDALE-HUBBELL CERTIFICATION PROCEDURES, STANDARDS AND POLICIES. MARTINDALE-HUBBELL IS THE FACILITATOR OF A PEER REVIEW RATING PROCESS. RATINGS REFLECT THE CONFIDENTIAL OPINIONS OF MEMBERS OF THE BAR AND THE JUDICIARY. MARTINDALE-HUBBELL RATINGS FALL INTO 2 CATEGORIES: LEGAL ABILITY AND GENERAL ETHICAL STANDARDS.