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According to the American Cancer Society, nearly 232,000 women in the United States are diagnosed with breast cancer each year, with close to 40,000 women ultimately succumbing to this devastating condition. While science has yet to give us a cure for breast cancer, it has given us at least one very effective weapon in the fight against breast cancer: early detection.
Statistics have consistently shown that the appropriate use of early screening techniques for diagnosing breast cancer enables surgeons to identify cancer early on and remove the malignant tissue via minor surgery, greatly increasing the odds of survival.
It may surprise you to learn that despite the advances being made in cancer screening and all that we now know about the disease that close to 2,240 men in the United States are still diagnosed with breast cancer each year. In fact, nearly 400 men die of the condition every year.
These may be small numbers when compared to the loss of life among women, but the relative rarity of fatal male breast cancer doesn’t mitigate the real suffering that patients and families have had to endure, due in some cases to physicians who fail in their professional duty to provide appropriate diagnosis and treatment.
The problem, say medical experts, is twofold. First, men are far more prone to not noticing the telltale symptoms of the condition (lumps, discharge, structural changes, etc.), and by the time they finally get around to having it checked out, the cancer has progressed considerably. Second, many physicians simply fail to recognize the signs of the disease and/or fail to run the necessary tests.
“Both the patient and the doctor often don’t have a high level of suspicion it is breast cancer,” said one oncologist. “Some men don’t come in, or some doctors don’t get biopsies. It is not a common disease, which leads men to being diagnosed at more advanced stages.”
According to medical experts, potential risk factors associated with male breast cancer that physicians need to be on the lookout for but frequently overlook include obesity, family history and alcohol abuse/cirrhosis of the liver, to name only a few.
When it comes to breast cancer — in either women or men – early detection is absolutely critical. While we know that any delay in diagnosis or misdiagnosis can have deadly consequences, it can also mean the difference between a relatively minor procedure or severe mastectomy operations, chemotherapy and radiation treatments. Accordingly, physicians should redouble their efforts to educate male patients regarding the risks and symptoms of breast cancer, and should absolutely be held accountable for any negligent misdiagnosis resulting in harm to a patient.
Always remember, if medical malpractice has caused you to unnecessarily endure a long, painful treatment for breast cancer, or to lose a loved one to breast cancer that could have been treated if caught earlier, your gender or the gender of your loved one does not limit your right to seek justice.
Please visit our website to learn more about misdiagnosis of breast cancer.
Source: The Washington Post, “Because male breast cancer is rare, many cases aren’t caught till later stages,” Laura Hambleton, Feb. 25, 2013