Many times, when an individual says they have been diagnosed with cancer in the breast, the description of that diagnosis is accompanied with a “stage.” So, what does this term mean? Typically, “stage” is expressed as a number between zero and four. Stage zero describes non-invasive cancers that remain in their original location. On the opposite end of the spectrum is stage four, which describes the invasive cancers that have spread outside of the breast to other parts of the body.
What Is Breast Cancer?
Breast cancer is the growth of breast tissue cells that cannot be controlled. These cells form a lump that grows underneath the breast tissue. When cancerous cells attack healthy cells in these lumps, cancer is the result. Although both women and men can develop cancer, it is more prominent in women over the age of 40.
There are signs indicating that breast cancer is present, although not all women will experience these symptoms. Possible signs of the cancer include:
- Marble sized knot under the breast
- Change in the size or shape of the breast
- Clear fluid or blood discharge from the nipples
- Breast redness/ irritation
Self-examinations help diagnose lumps and the other symptoms listed above. Conducting regular self-examinations is important. These examinations allow early detection of cancer.
Breast cancer is the leading cause of death in women. Each year, more than 235,000 people are diagnosed with the disease. This is 1 in every eight women. Of those women, nearly 40,000 will lose their lives battling the condition.
Chemotherapy, radiation, lifestyle and diet changes are all treatments available for cancer; however, prevention and early detection of the disease are best.
Early detection is key for treatment of breast cancer. Doctors advise women to obtain a breast cancer screening every year to ensue early detection and higher survival rates. Women are also encouraged to perform the self-examinations on a regular basis. There are several other tests and procedures available that detect the presence of the cancerous cells. Mammograms are commonly used to detect breast cancer, but biopsies are sometimes performed.
Early diagnosis of the condition during the early stages of cell growth offer the patient a 90% 5-year survival rate. This is just one of the many reasons that medical malpractice is so devastating. All too often, the cancer was easily treatable, perhaps even prevented. But instead, a doctor, a person who took an oath to give you superior care, let you down, and now the results are tragic.
How Are Breast Cancer Stages Determined?
Cancer stage is determined using four characteristics:
- Whether or not cancer is in lymph nodes
- Whether cancer has spread to other parts of the body
Additionally, you may hear or see certain words that describe the stage of your breast cancer: local, regional, and distant. The term local means that the cancer is confined to the breast. The term regional means that the lymph nodes are also involved. The term distant means that cancer has also been located in other parts of the body.
How Are Stages Used?
The stage of your breast cancer will help your physician, and you- as a patient, to better understand your prognosis, or the likely outcome of your condition. This, in conjunction with other results in your pathology report, will help to determine the best course of treatment for you. Also, cancer stage allows everyone to have a common way of describing cancer in the breast and patients can better connect with each other. Patients can compare and understand each other’s cancer and prognosis.
TNM Staging System
Physicians may also use another staging system, called TNM to describe cancer in the breast. This particular system is based on the tumor size (T), the involvement of lymph nodes (N), and if cancer has metastasized, or spread, (M).
In most cases, physicians will simply use the numerical staging to describe your cancer. However, there are some clinical trials that require TNM information, so if you’re considering participating in a clinical trial, discuss TNM with your physician.
TNM can also be used to help your pathologist to determine what stage your breast cancer is.
Can Breast Cancer Be Misdiagnosed?
There are some women who have been misdiagnosed with cancer in the breast, or perhaps this diagnosis was missed during the evaluation. For example, diagnosis of breast lumps and breast cancer could be delayed or even missed because the breast lump may not be large enough or painful enough for the individual to be concerned and seek medical treatment.
Also, the smaller breast lumps may not be detected by self-evaluation or even a medical breast examination for some time. There are even some breast lumps that are not easily seen on a mammogram screening.
Breast lumps that are caused by breast cancer could be diagnosed as benign conditions such as a blocked milk duct, breast cyst, fibroadenomas, and even breast cysts.
Finally, there are some individuals who may notice lumps in their breasts but delay seeking medical evaluations and medical treatment because they are afraid of receiving a diagnosis of breast cancer. However, everyone should be aware that lumps in the breast could be a symptom of many different conditions. Therefore, a thorough medical evaluation is necessary to ensure an accurate diagnosis.
How Does Medical Malpractice Occur?
Medical malpractice occurs when a doctor, nurse, physical therapist, radiation specialist or another member of the medical field commits negligence in the diagnosis or treatment of breast cancer. This negligence often causes a negative outcome, since the cancer is harder to treat the longer that it persists. The following are instances of medical malpractice:
- Failure to screen for breast cancer
- Misreading of CT scans, x-rays
- Failure to follow-up with a patient about results of a positive test
- Failed to discover cancerous cells present during a mammogram
- Improper breast cancer treatment
These are just some of the different ways that medical malpractice can occur. If you suspect medical malpractice in your case, it is essential to speak to a lawyer immediately. Medical malpractice lawsuits are more common than ever, but it is only deserved after your trust was broken on such a deep, life-altering level. Breast cancer is no laughing matter, and you need to fight for what is right. Compensation for your injuries, pain and suffering and medical bills is available through a medical malpractice lawsuit, but you’ll need to speak to a lawyer to find out the next steps to take and to get the ball rolling.
Have You Been Misdiagnosed with Breast Cancer?
If you believe that you have been misdiagnosed with cancer in the breast, it is important that you seek a second opinion. If you received a misdiagnosis from your physician, you could be able to seek compensation. Consider contacting a medical malpractice attorney to learn about your options.