Google Screened

Staggering Cost of Breast Cancer Misdiagnoses

Philadelphia Medical Malpractice Lawyers Report that Questions are Being Raised about the Accuracy of Breast Cancer Screenings

A recent study found the annual cost due to breast cancer misdiagnosis is over $4 billion in the United States alone. The comprehensive study, involving over 700,000 women with health insurance, attributed much of the cost to an unlikely source—mammograms.

Developed in the 1930s, mammograms using x-ray technology gained acceptance in the medical community in the 1960s. Advances in technique and medical understanding led to a 30 percent decrease in breast cancer in the United States during the nineties and first decade of this century.

However, in recent years, this once invincible pillar in women’s medicine began to show cracks. Concern grew about the high incident of false positives (where the physician concludes a mammogram may indicate breast cancer when in fact there is no cancer). False positives occur about 11 percent of the time. This means that over a 10 year period of screening, there is a 60 percent probability that a false positive will occur.

These false positives have both financial and emotional costs.

Financially, a false positive incurs costs associated with follow-up doctor visits, more tests, and even unnecessary procedures like a biopsy, and this totals $2.8 billion annually. Emotionally, the victim of a false positive can suffer from stress and worry, and these emotions can last for years.

Overdiagnosis is another common result from a mammogram. Overdiagnosis refers to the detection of abnormalities consistent with cancer. However, the abnormalities never progress to the extent of causing the symptoms associated with breast cancer during the patient’s lifetime. Approximately $1.2 billion is the cost associated with overdiagnosis.

The medical community has taken note. While the American Cancer Society has not changed its recommendation that women undergo annual screenings beginning at 40, a congressional task force in 2009 recommended that for women under 50, “The decision to have screening mammography for breast cancer should be an individual one and should take into account a woman’s own situation and her values regarding specific benefits and harms.”

Despite these recent concerns about mammograms, thousands of lives have been saved due to mammogram screening in the United States. Mammograms lower the risk of death from breast cancer by 35 percent in women 50 years or older, and by a slightly lower percentage in younger women. Ultimately, the beginning age and frequency of mammograms is a decision based on careful consideration. Women must balance the unnecessary cost and emotional turmoil associated with false positives and overdiagnosis against the benefits of early detection of breast cancer.

McCann Dillon Jaffe & Lamb, LLC:  Experienced Philadelphia Medical Malpractice Lawyers

If you have suffered financially or emotionally from an unnecessary mammogram, or one that resulted in a false positive, or over diagnosis, the Philadelphia medical malpractice lawyers at McCann Dillon Jaffe & Lamb, LLC are ready to help. With more than 50 years of combined experience, our attorneys are your greatest advocate. Contact us online or call 215-569-8488 or 302-888-1221. Serving clients throughout Pennsylvania, Delaware and New Jersey.