The journal “Radiology” recently published findings from a study that should be of great interest to radiologists and mammography patients alike in Massachusetts and elsewhere. According to the study, which culled data from nearly 4800 claims filed against radiologists in 47 states, the most common cause of medical malpractice suits filed against radiologists is breast cancer misdiagnosis rather than failure to recommend follow-up testing or insufficient communication between physicians and their patients; these were also listed as reasons for malpractice lawsuits but in much lower incidence than failure to diagnose breast cancer itself.

While the majority of these missed diagnoses were attributed to radiologists’ neglecting to spot lesions indicative of breast cancer on mammography scans, the senior author of the study, who is also chair of the Department of Radiology at the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey, noted that mammography itself as a technique is “limited” due to the density of breast tissue. This does not, however, excuse the lack of vigilance on the part of the radiologist, he also remarked.

A relatively common cancer, breast cancer can often be successfully treated with low incidence of return if detected early. However, the consequences of a missed diagnosis can be dire and in some cases even life-threatening. Even if the condition isn’t substantially worsened by the lack of early detection, the treatment will likely be more drawn out, costly and uncomfortable for the patient and his or her family.

Patients who are suffering from the consequences of breast cancer that failed to be detected in a timely fashion by a negligent radiologist would do well to consult with a knowledgeable medical malpractice attorney, who may be able to help them recover funds for their medical expenses, worsened condition, delayed treatment and potential spread of disease.

Source: DOTmed News, “Radiologists see most malpractice suits for mammography,” Loren Bonner, Feb. 6, 2013