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Is Overdiagnosis of Breast Cancer a Malpractice Issue? 

Many medical and technological advancements in healthcare and medicine are truly breathtaking. We live in an era during which many deadly diseases have been eradicated, and many more can be treated effectively.

As to breast cancer, survival rates have certainly increased, partly thanks to early diagnosis. But while early diagnosis is essential, are there instances of overdiagnosis and overtreatment? Those and other breast cancer issues will be addressed in this article.

Breast Cancer Statistics

According to the American Cancer Society, breast cancer represents approximately 30% of yearly female cancer diagnoses. This is the second most common form of cancer in women, behind only skin cancers. The American Cancer Society (ACS) has estimated that in 2023, approximately 297,790 new invasive breast cancer cases will be diagnosed, along with about 55,720 diagnoses of ductal carcinoma in situ (a form of pre-cancer). The ACS further estimates breast cancer will cause approximately 43,700 deaths in 2023.

Most women who develop breast cancer are older than 45, and the median age for a woman diagnosed with breast cancer is 62. The ACS further states that every woman has approximately a 13 percent chance of developing this type of cancer.

Positive Trends in Breast Cancer Statistics

While there has been an uptick in breast cancer rates in recent years, the ACS reports that breast cancer death rates have decreased consistently since 1989. Through 2020, death rates had dropped approximately 43%. The ACS believes the decrease can be attributed to screening and awareness that result in earlier diagnosis and better treatment. However, breast cancer still causes many deaths.

The Importance of Diagnosis and Possible Medical Malpractice

Millions of women have survived breast cancer. As noted above, early diagnosis and treatment are essential. Delay is the enemy because survival rates typically decrease the longer it takes to detect the cancer. Thus, medical malpractice can occur due to misdiagnosis or failure to diagnose under some of the following scenarios: 

But while a failure to properly diagnose and treat breast cancer can lead to adverse consequences for women, what about overdiagnosis? We will discuss that issue in the next section.

Overdiagnosis and Overtreatment of Breast Cancer

According to Healio, a health care publication, results of a study show that approximately 15.3% of women between the ages of 50 and 74 who have biennial screening are overdiagnosed. 

What is Overdiagnosis? 

In this context, “overdiagnosis” refers to detection by mammogram of breast cancer that would not have harmed a woman and would not have caused symptoms during her lifetime. Other literature similarly suggests that there is sometimes overdiagnosis of breast cancer.

Unfortunately, overdiagnosis can lead to overtreatment. (Overtreatment can also occur without overdiagnosis). National Public Radio (NPR) cites research suggesting that some women may receive more radiation treatment than they need. There may be some circumstances where overdiagnosis leads to treatment when none is needed at all. 

That said, the Oregon Health and Safety University also reports that these cases may not be as prevalent as some publications believe. It is still worth it for people to receive appropriate breast cancer screenings and to watch for signs of breast cancer, even if they hold some concerns about misdiagnosis. Research your Oregon doctors carefully and make an informed decision to find the right doctor for you. 

Medical Malpractice Cases in Oregon

Medicine is complicated, as is proving medical malpractice cases. Luckily, Oregon is graced with many excellent doctors and other medical care providers to help keep us healthy. But sometimes, even professionals make mistakes and perform negligently. 

Determining whether a medical provider has met the applicable standard of care under the law can be a challenging undertaking. Expert witnesses and a careful analysis through discovery and investigation of the circumstances are required. It is imperative to obtain the assistance of an experienced Oregon medical malpractice attorney.

As with any malpractice case, damages you may be awarded will vary based on the results of that investigation and discovery stage, and based on how well a defendant proves that they have lost money and experienced hardship due to the malpractice. 

While general damages are what most patients are anticipating should they pursue a medical malpractice suit due to improperly diagnosed breast cancer, special damages – or even in rare cases, punitive damages – may be worth pursuing as well. Oregon does not have a cap on the amount of non-economic damages that can be received besides in cases of wrongful death. 

Contact Your Oregon Medical Malpractice Attorneys 

In the event of injury due to overdiagnosis or misdiagnosis of breast cancer, the experienced Oregon medical malpractice attorneys at Nelson MacNeil Rayfield know you will have many questions. Please call and schedule a free consultation so that we may answer your questions and help set you on the right path with knowledge and compassion. We help injury victims all across Oregon – contact us today.