Breast Cancer Solicitors - Medical Negligence Injury Compensation Lawyers
If you believe that you have a potential medical negligence case, please contact our breast cancer solicitors for a no-obligation consultation at no cost. Our breast cancer solicitors operate under a no win no fee arrangement - you only pay us if and when you receive a compensation payment - No Win No Fee Lawyers.
Our medical negligence solicitors have offices situated in Adelaide, Brisbane, Canberra, Melbourne, Perth, Darwin, and Sydney. Do yourself justice - give us a call.
Breast cancer will strike over one in ten women during their lifetime. Breast cancer can often be cured when detected early and treated. An early diagnosis greatly increases a patients chances for survival, lessens pain and recovery time and eases the associated financial hardship. If you think that your condition has worsened as a result of medical negligence, contact our breast cancer solicitors for advice at no cost.
The most common type of breast cancer medical negligence settlements stem from breast cancer mis-diagnoses and/or mis-treatment. Younger women or those not considered within the typical age range for breast cancer patients are especially affected, as they may have pre-existing cancer that remains undetected for months. Often, because a younger womans mammary tissue is more dense and does not always provide a reliable mammogram, doctors choose to dismiss their complaints and disregard the threat of breast cancer based on their age.
Medical negligence in the area of breast cancer treatment may include a failure to run appropriate tests, misdiagnosis or lack of diagnosis, improper treatment, a delay in treatment that could seriously hinder the treatment process, improper follow-up or errors in prescriptions and medications. Medical negligence is defined as any treatment, lack of treatment or other departure from accepted standards of medical care, health care or safety on the part of a health care provider which causes harm to a patient. Our breast cancer solicitors are very experienced in dealing with compensation claims for late diagnosis or mis-diagnosis.
Breast cancer medical negligence can occur if a doctor or health care provider fails to :-
- identify an obvious lump during breast examination
- arrange a mammogram, x-rays, ultrasound, CT scan or MRI scan
- properly identify a tumour, mistaking it for an infection
- diagnose the tumour as malignant
- properly evaluate biopsy or test results
- follow up on test results
- order future tests
- order a biopsy
- follow up with the patient
- determine the cause of nipple discharge
- consider a history of sharp pain in the breast
- recognise common symptoms
- perform a breast examination that would have identified an obvious tumour
Breast Cancer Overview
Breast cancer happens when different cells of the breast grow out of control and sometimes spread to other body areas, including lymph nodes, lungs, brain and liver. It is the most common type of cancer in women but it can be done in men and women.
Signs and symptoms of breast cancer include the following:
- A lump in the breast or a thickening that doesn’t feel right
- Increase in the size of the breast
- Inverted nipple
- Dimpling of the skin
- A bloody discharge from the nipples
- Peeling or flaking of the breast
- Redness or pitting of the skin of the breast
No one knows exactly what causes breast cancer. There are a number of risk factors that contribute to getting breast cancer. About five to ten percent of breast cancer patients have a hereditary form of the disorder. This can be checked for by screening blood tests. The BRCA1 and BRCA2 gene mutations can predict an increased possibility of having breast cancer.
Other risk factors for breast cancer include:
- Increased age.
- Female age.
- Past history of breast cancer.
- Family history of breast cancer.
- Having certain inherited genes that increase risk of cancer.
- History of radiation exposure to the chest in the past.
- Being obese.
- Starting your period younger.
- Having menopause at a late age.
- Having your first child at a later age.
- Having had no previous pregnancies.
- Being on postmenopausal hormonal therapy.
- Use of alcohol.
The diagnosis of breast cancer starts with a physical examination that looks for lumps and irregularities of the breast. The main screening test for breast cancer is the mammogram, which uses x-rays to find irregularities and calcium deposits in the breast tissue. A breast ultrasound can tell if there is a difference between solid and cystic masses in the tissue. If an area is questionable, a biopsy is done to detect cancerous tissue. A dye study with an MRI exam can tell if an area of the breast is questionable. The doctor may complete the evaluation with a complete blood count, a bone scan to look for cancer in the bone, a CT scan of the breast and a PET scan (positron emission tomography) evaluation of the breast can be done.
Breast cancer is staged from 0 to IV, which identifies a really small cancer at stage 0 to a metastatic cancer at stage IV. The treatment is based on the stage of the disease. Complications of breast cancer includes failure to diagnose the disease in a timely fashion, failure to treat using accepted methods of treatment and failure to stage properly.
The treatments for breast cancer include breast cancer surgery, which can be a lumpectomy, a partial mastectomy, a unilateral mastectomy or a double mastectomy, if the patient has been found to have a medical reason for increased risk of having breast cancer. A few or many lymph nodes can be removed, depending on how many lymph nodes are involved. One can have an axillary lymph node dissection to remove most or all of the lymph nodes of the axilla. Complications of breast surgery are infection and bleeding.
Radiation therapy kills cancer cells in an area near the breast involved. Radioactive materials can be placed near the cancer in a procedure called brachytherapy. External beam radiation can be used following a lumpectomy in order to get rid of cancerous cells near the lump.
Chemotherapy uses drugs by IV to kill distant breast cancer cells. If the cancer is high risk for recurrence, then chemotherapy is done to reduce that risk. Chemotherapy has a great many side effects, including hair loss, nausea, weight loss, and vomiting, but it is generally successful.
Hormonal therapy uses hormones that block the growth of cancer cells. Not everyone is a candidate for hormone therapy. It depends on the types of receptors on the breast cells.
Inflammatory Breast Cancer
Inflammatory breast cancer (IBC) is a particularly dangerous type of breast cancer. It is aggressive with a very low survival rate. The cancer cells form near the surface of the breast and block the lymph vessels in the skin of the breast so that the breast looks swollen, red and inflamed. Only about 1-5 percent of all breast cancer cases are inflammatory breast cancer. It is generally diagnosed in women who are younger than the average breast cancer patient. It is more common in African American women than in Caucasian women. There is sometimes a family history among women with the disease and some women with IBC have a family history of women with non-IBC cancers.
The symptoms of inflammatory breast cancer include redness, warmth and swelling of the breast. There may or may not be a distinct lump in the breast itself and it may look just like dimpled, thickened skin, similar to an orange peel. The breast skin is reddish purple, bruised-looking or pink in nature. The thickening and discolouration of the skin is due to a pooling of lymphatic fluid into the skin. The nipple can be inverted and the breast often aches or is sore to the touch. Some women feel a burning pain in the breast and it is often misdiagnosed as an infection initially. Swelling of the lymph nodes occurs, especially around the armpit area. The symptoms can develop over a few days, weeks or months.
The diagnosis of inflammatory breast cancer may include a mammogram which can show calcifications in the breast tissue or a lump in the breast. It may not show anything at all. For this reason, you need to consider having a biopsy of the breast tissue, particularly the skin in order to find the cancer. A breast ultrasound may need to be done. IBC is generally diagnosed only as stage IIIB or stage IV. There is no such thing as stage I, II, or IIIA cancer of the breast in inflammatory breast cancer because the lymph system is automatically involved and metastases are likely.
Inflammatory breast cancer is best treated with chemotherapy, surgery, targeted therapy, radiation therapy and hormonal therapy. Supportive care managing the symptoms and side effects of treatment is also important. Chemotherapy involves taking anticancer drugs for several weeks. It is usually IV therapy given regularly at a hospital. Hormonal therapy is used to block the growth of cancer cells that have positive hormone receptors for oestrogen, progesterone and HER receptors. Radiation to the chest wall, any metastases and the armpit is commonly performed as part of the treatment of inflammatory breast cancer. Surgery can involve a single or double mastectomy.
There are local targeted therapies for all types of breast cancer, including IBC. Trastuzumab or Herceptin is used for those cancers that express the HER-2 receptor on the cancer cells. It blocks the growth of those cells. Other hormones blocked in IBC include progesterone and oestrogen.
Because inflammatory breast cancer is so dangerous and difficult to manage, you might choose to join a clinical trial. Clinical trials are available at many universities and research hospitals and have the latest in care of this type of cancer. You can contact the National Cancer Institute in order to find a nearby clinical trial for you to join. Doctors assess whether or not you are suitable for the clinical trial and give you medications and treatments that are new and up and coming in the world of breast cancer treatment.
The prognosis of inflammatory breast cancer is not as good as regular breast cancer. This is in part because it is so aggressive and in part due to the fact that it is stage IIIB or stage IV at the time of diagnosis. It is also often misdiagnosed at the time of onset, which delays treatment. The five year survival rate for those women who have inflammatory breast cancer is about 25 to 50 percent. This means that less than half of all women with the disease of IBC are alive after five years of having the disease. This is much lower than for women with regular breast cancer.
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The author of the substantive medical writing on this website is Dr. Christine Traxler MD whose biography can be read here