Failure to Diagnose Breast Cancer

In nearly every medical malpractice, the claimant must prove both negligence and causation – that is to say, that a failure to diagnose or delay in diagnosis led to a specific catastrophic outcome for the patient.

2016 Breast Cancer Statistics

According to, approximately 1 in 8 American women -twelve percent – will develop invasive breast cancer during her lifetime. This translates to an estimated 246,660 new cases of invasive breast cancer in 2016, and 61,000 new cases of non-invasive (in situ) breast cancer. For men, these figures represent about 2,600 new cases of invasive breast cancer.

Given so many cases, a failure to diagnose breast cancer or a diagnosis delay can occur. Not every delayed diagnosis or failure to diagnose breast cancer is grounds for a lawsuit, of course. This issue is complicated, requiring a deep understanding of both the law and the medical aspects of the case.

Benign or Cancerous?

A large portion of breast pathology is discovered to be benign (non-cancerous), resulting from congenital or developmental abnormalities. As well, some inflammatory processes can mimic cancerous conditions. Tumors, including fibrocystic disease, can cause lumps to appear in the breast, raising alarm. When coupled with a genetic condition, such alarm is well placed but, in many cases, cancer is not present.

However, if the physician performed a thorough examination, noted no lump, could not palpate a tumor, and uncovered no radiographic evidence, is that physician guilty of malpractice? This case is harder to prove, as there is no evidence the physician failed in his or her duties, or that a later diagnosis would make a difference in the outcome of the case. This is where help from a qualified attorney is vital.

Proving Failure to Diagnose

A case of failure to diagnose breast cancer, or a delay in diagnosis, must prove that the physician has failed to meet the criteria set forth by standards of care. Making such a determination rests on questions related to both negligence and causation.

Where catastrophic injury does occur to the patient, and both negligence and causation can be proven, retain a knowledgeable attorney to deal with the many complex medical issues.