Baltimore Medical Malpractice Lawyers: Unnecessary Breast Cancer TreatmentFebruary 28, 2017
Mammograms are a vital tool in preserving women’s health. Early detection of breast cancer can make a significant difference in the effect of treatment. A recent Danish study, however, reveals a surprising risk associated with mammograms. Approximately one in three women who are diagnosed with a tumor are unnecessarily treated.
Some Growths Do Not Require Treatment
Mammograms are not 100% effective, but they do increase the likelihood of surviving breast cancer by an estimated 25-31% in women ages 40 to 69. Mammograms provide a snapshot of any growths present in the breasts, but not all tumors carry the same risk. Some tumors may become life-threatening and require immediate treatment. Others may be growing at such a slow rate that they present no danger, and in some cases, they may even shrink on their own. It can be very difficult for doctors to tell the difference.
The most common type of growth revealed in a mammogram is ductal carcinoma in situ (DCIS), which affects about 63,000 women in the U.S. per year. DCIS cells appear malignant because they share certain traits with cancerous cells, but have not invaded any of the surrounding tissue. The American Cancer Society categorizes DCIS as the earliest stage of breast cancer. Therefore, it is often treated similarly to other early invasive cancers. However, DCIS is not life-threatening, and some recommend reclassifying DCIS as a risk factor for cancer, as it does not pose a serious risk in itself.
Cancer Treatments Not Worth the Risk in Some Cases
When a tumor is detected, most patients naturally look to their physicians to develop a treatment plan as soon as possible. This approach undoubtedly saves lives, but can also lead women who do not need to be cured to seek treatment. Women whose growth was not threatening in the first place may undergo unnecessary surgery, chemotherapy, radiation, or a combination of these, each of which comes with its own risks. Radiation can be especially damaging to the heart and may even cause other forms of cancer.
There is conflicting advice regarding when and how often women should get a mammogram. The American College of Radiology recommends an annual mammogram beginning at age 40 in order to catch tumors when they are small and easier to treat. The U.S. Preventive Task Force takes a different approach, recommending a mammogram every other year from age 50 on. As the risk for breast cancer increases with age, the agency believes this is more effective in identifying cancerous growths, rather than benign growths that do not require treatment. The American Cancer Society recommendation falls between these two, suggesting annual mammograms from age 45 to 54 and biannual screenings after that.
The American Cancer Society estimates that 253,000 women will be diagnosed with breast cancer each year and about 41,000 women will die from the disease. Developing a treatment plan early can be helpful, but overdiagnosis and overtreatment can potentially do more harm than good. It is up to physicians to make responsible recommendations when a potential growth is spotted in a mammogram. Failure to respond appropriately can have disastrous consequences and may be considered medical negligence.
Baltimore Medical Malpractice Lawyers at LeViness, Tolzman & Hamilton Advocate for Cancer Misdiagnosis Victims
Baltimore medical malpractice lawyers at LeViness, Tolzman & Hamilton have the knowledge and experience to handle all types of medical malpractice cases, including cancer misdiagnosis, delayed diagnosis, and improper treatment. Our dedicated legal team will thoroughly review the facts of your case to determine if physician negligence was a factor in your illness and get you the compensation you deserve. Call us today at 800-547-4LAW (4529) or contact us online for a free consultation.
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