Study: Radiologists sometimes fail to diagnose breast cancer

There's No Substitute for Experience

Diagnosing cancer in a timely matter is critical when it comes to the long-term survival of the patient. In some cases, a delayed diagnosis or a misdiagnosis could mean more evasive surgeries and complications. Other times, the delay or misdiagnosis could even be the different between life and death.

This month a study was published in the journal Radiology, which found that radiologists see the most medical malpractice lawsuits for failing to diagnose breast cancer. Quite frequently these cases involve the radiologist not detecting a lesion in a mammography scan. Without detecting the lesion, the patients are not encouraged to go for follow-up testing. Most likely, many leave thinking everything is OK.

In this study, researchers examined 4,793 claims that were made against 2,680 radiologists. These claims came from patients in 47 different states.

Looking at the results of the study, the lead author points to the fact that part of the problem is due to the mammography process. He claims detection is limited in cases where the patient's breasts are dense. However, regardless of the tool being used, radiologists are still blamed for failing to diagnose the cancer.

In general, when talking about cancer, it is important to keep in mind that many types of cancer, including that of the breast, lung, ovary and brain, can often be diagnosed early on if a patient's doctor is alert. However, when a radiologist, doctor or oncologist fails to diagnose in a timely matter, it can mean even more pain and suffering for a person who is already struggling with a potentially life-threatening disease.

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