A mammogram is an x-ray of the breast that can be used to detect breast cancer in women who have no signs or symtoms of the disease. Current guidelines recommend that women over the age of 40 receive yearly mammograms. Women who are at higher risk for breast cancer based on factors such as family history and long-term use of hormone therapy are advised to undergo mammograms prior to the age of 40. When screening mammograms are properly performed and interpreted, they can often detect breast tumors when they are very small and cannot be felt, allowing for an early diagnosis of the disease. Early diagnosis is the key to successful treatment and long term survival. Current statistics show that women who are diagnosed with stage I breast cancer have a five-year survival rate of 100%, and women who have stage II breast cancer have a five-year survival rate of 86%. On the other hand, the five-year survival rates for stage III and stage IV breast cancers are only 57% and 20% respectively.
Occassionally, women are diagnosed with advanced stage breast cancer even though they have received regular yearly mammograms that were reported to be normal. According to the National Cancer Institute, screening mammograms may miss up to 20% of the breast cancers that are present at the time of the screening. These false negatives occur more often in younger women because their breast tissue is more dense, which can make it difficult to detect breast cancer. As women grow older, their breasts usually become more fatty and less dense, making it easier to detect breast cancers with screening mammograms.
Unfortunately, there are also tragic instances when breast cancer is detectible on a screening mammogram, but the radiologist misreads the mammogam and fails to report the cancer to the patient and her physician. Our firm recently represented a 44-year-old woman who was diagnosed with advanced stage breast cancer despite the fact that she had received regular yearly mammograms prior to her diagnosis, all of which were reported to be normal. Our firm obtained all of our client's prior mammogram films and sent them to two prominent radiology experts who are affilitated with top medical schools. Each expert independently concluded that our client's breast cancer was plainly visible on the mammogram that she had received approximately one year prior to her diagnosis. Our firm subsequently retained two prominent oncology experts who advised us that our client's cancer was still at an early stage and could have been successfully treated when the radiologist failed to detect and report it one year prior to her diagnosis.
Based upon the findings of our experts, our firm filed a medical malpractice suit on behalf of our client. Over the next year, we aggressively litigated our client's case, while she underwent several surgeries and months of painful chemotherapy and radiation treatments. We ultimately obtained a significant financial settlement for our client. Tragically, six months later, our client succumbed to breast cancer. The settlement we obtained allowed our client to provide financial security for her family and gave her peace of mind in her final months.
If you or someone you know has been diagnosed with advanced stage breast cancer despite receiving regular yearly mammograms, please call the law firm of Dever & Feldstein, LLC for a confidential, no-charge consultation.