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​​Why Breast Cancer Misdiagnosis is One of the Most Common Medical Malpractice Suits

​​Why Breast Cancer Misdiagnosis is One of the Most Common Medical Malpractice Suits
Insights Med. Malpractice Mar. 10 5 min read

Misdiagnosis and failure to diagnose a condition are two of the most common reasons for medical malpractice suits. For patients with cancer, receiving a false diagnosis or not being diagnosed with cancer as their symptoms progress or worsen can present serious risks to their recovery outcome. Additionally, unnecessary treatments can pose harm to those incorrectly diagnosed with cancer. 

Breast cancer is one of the most commonly misdiagnosed medical conditions in the United States, and a disproportionate amount of these misdiagnoses are a direct result of medical error. Many women are left to suffer the repercussions of a misdiagnosis, leading to harmful and unnecessary medical treatments or no treatment while their symptoms progress. 

How Frequently is Breast Cancer Misdiagnosed?

As one of the most common cancers plaguing women, the average woman faces a 13% chance of developing breast cancer sometime in their life. With a .5% rate of increase in cases annually, breast cancer has consistently been on the rise since the 1970s leading to an increased drive by medical professionals to test for the disease. 

Unfortunately, many of the current testing procedures have a high degree of uncertainty, with some studies going so far as to suggest that nearly 22 to 32% of all breast cancer cases are misdiagnosed. While part of this is due to the inaccuracy of current testing methodology, an uncomfortable number of these cases are the direct result of medical malpractice.

How False Positive Breast Cancer Results Cause Harm

A study conducted by UC Davis Health found that approximately 50% of women will receive a false positive test result at some point in their life. A false positive is a test result that suggests a patient is positive for a condition they are not actually positive for. While most women will undergo further testing to ensure their diagnosis is correct, others are rushed into unnecessary treatments or surgeries directly following their misdiagnosis.

Women who undergo annual breast cancer screenings are more prone to false positive test results, with a portion of these misdiagnosed women being subjected to invasive treatments such as mastectomies or chemotherapy. These highly invasive procedures often have detrimental results, leaving their breasts misshapen or resulting in hair loss, depression, or other negative consequences. Coupled with the emotional trauma and pain of treating an illness that doesn’t actually exist, victims of false positive diagnoses can suffer from a plethora of other consequences throughout their life and deserve justice for such wrongdoing. 

How False Negative Breast Cancer Results Cause Harm

Even more devastating than a false positive test result is a missed diagnosis or a false negative that suggests cancer isn’t present when in fact, it is. Any delay in treatment can mean the difference between life and death, greatly diminishing any patient’s survival odds. 

Medical gaslighting, ignoring women’s symptoms or complaints of breast tissue lumps or pain, and overall medical negligence can lead to critical errors in prompt and accurate treatment. 

When Misdiagnosis Becomes Medical Negligence

Proving that a misdiagnosis or missed diagnosis is medical malpractice is extremely difficult. If it can be proven that human error, carelessness, or misconduct caused the misdiagnosis, then it’s possible to hold that doctor liable for medical malpractice. 

A responsible doctor should utilize a variety of appropriate tests and methods to test for potential illness, including things like:

  • Asking the patient questions about their symptoms
  • Performing extensive testing
  • Examining the patient’s past medical history
  • Referring the patient to specialists

In order to have grounds for a medical malpractice lawsuit, it must be proven that the doctor operated outside of the standard methodology of accepted practice, directly resulting in the patient’s further injury. This typically must be confirmed by an expert medical witness who evaluates if the doctor acted in accordance with the standards of care and whether or not:

  • The doctor performed the diagnosis properly
  • The doctor’s incorrect diagnosis led to further illness
  • The doctor included all of the accepted possibilities for diagnosis that any reasonable physician would have considered
  • Whether or not the doctor performed appropriate testing to arrive at their final diagnosis

Proof of error is not enough to win a medical malpractice case, and a patient must show that the doctor’s misdiagnosis directly caused further illness.

Why You Need a Medical Malpractice Attorney to Win a Misdiagnosis Case

Most medical facilities and practicing physicians have highly skilled medical malpractice lawyers to protect them from patient lawsuits. Because medical malpractice cases require a great deal of specialized knowledge, it’s challenging for patients to win a case without an attorney to defend them against extremely adept lawyers representing physicians. 

However, an experienced medical malpractice lawyer will ensure your case receives the utmost care so that you stand the highest chance of winning a fair settlement. 


Breast cancer is one of the most prevalent diseases, affecting a disproportionate number of women. While screening procedures have become more aggressive over the past few decades, the amount of false positive diagnoses for breast cancer has incidentally risen as well. While false positive test results can lead to unnecessary procedures such as surgery and chemotherapy, false negative results can delay treatment and lead to worsening health or, worse yet, death. 

In some instances, medical negligence is to blame for a patient’s misdiagnosis. When this negligence leads to further injury or illness, a patient can file suit against their treating physician. 

Having an experienced attorney is vital to win any medical malpractice suit, as most physicians have extremely adept attorneys specializing in medical law. Because of the complexity of medical malpractice cases, ensuring the success of your case by hiring an attorney will help ensure that you receive fair compensation for your woes and that no woman will suffer at the hands of the same irresponsible physician again.

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