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Doctors can make mistakes when they diagnose breast cancer

Perhaps no other disease is more feared than cancer. This aggressive condition can drastically decrease an individual's quality of life and can wind up being fatal. The good news is that many types of cancer can be effectively treated if detected early enough, which renders proper diagnosis critical. So, how do medical professionals detect cancer? 

There are some similarities with regard to detecting various types of cancers, but some cancers need special types of tests to be spotted, including breast cancer. Women are encouraged to conduct self-examinations, then refer to a doctor if abnormalities are discovered.

A doctor will then likely conduct an examination, analyzing any abnormal lumps. If it is determined that the abnormalities may be cancerous, additional testing may be ordered. The most common test is a mammogram, which is where the breast is x-rayed. Other imaging tests include ultrasound, which utilizes sound waves, and MRI, which utilizes magnetic waves and magnets. If any of these tests detect potentially cancerous masses, then a biopsy may be conducted, where a small piece of the suspicious tissue is removed and analyzed. This is usually the stage that leads to confirmation of cancer.

Despite the numerous tests and technological equipment available to medical professionals, there is still room for error. Doctors are relied upon to accurately and appropriately order tests, carry them out and interpret test results. When they fail to do this, a patient can suffer from a missed diagnosis. A failure to diagnose can lead to a worsened medical condition and even a decreased chance of survival. Those who believe they have fallen victim to a doctor's negligence with regard to diagnosis should carefully consider their legal options.

Source: American Cancer Society, "How is breast cancer diagnosed?" accessed on March 27, 2016

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