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Breast Cancer Awareness Month: A common case of misdiagnosis

Doctor talking to patient | Shine Lawyers

Clare Eves | Shine Lawyers Written by:
Clare Eves
National Special Counsel - Medical Law

It’s the end of the month – the final day in Breast Cancer Awareness Month, but hopefully that doesn’t mean it’s the final day you make it your priority to book in for that appointment for a breast screen.

Frighteningly, breast cancer is one of the most commonly misdiagnosed diseases.

Doctors can fail to refer women for investigation who are high risk, scans can be misinterpreted or abnormalities in your blood tests can be overlooked, all of which can lead to a delay in diagnosis, and the loss of opportunity to treat your illness in a timely manner.

On the final day of Breast Cancer Awareness Month, I write to you to encourage you to book in and ask for that opinion, or to get a second opinion in the instance that you feel something has been overlooked. The lesson rings true – you know your body better than anyone else, so you must be your own biggest advocate when it comes to getting tested for any illnesses you fear you may have.

Doctor and patient talking

If you’re unhappy with the advice you’ve been given, get a second opinion with someone else. If something had been identified, insist on having a biopsy of the affected area if you believe sufficient investigations haven’t been done.

This year alone, it’s estimated that 17,586 Australian women will be diagnosed with breast cancer; however it is important to remember that most women survive this illness, IF they detect it early and get the right treatment.

As many as one in eight of us will be diagnosed with breast cancer before the age of 85. That is approximately 48 women (and occasionally men) per day.

Our risk is raised if we are above 60, have a strong family history or have a known genetic mutation and men, you are not immune. Research says that as many as 144 of you will be diagnosed with breast cancer just this year.

This is an illness that affects us all. It does not discriminate and it will not be ignored.

The good news is, the five year survival rate of this illness is 90%. This means that with the right medical team, mammograms, self-checks and improved treatment regimens, it’s likely you can and will survive this horrible illness.

Still, it is the second-leading cause of cancer-related death in Australian women, which to me, suggests that we are not picking this up early enough. There are 3,114 women who will lose their lives to the disease this year alone.

To all of us, that is 3,114 too many, particularly if they have come as a result of late or misdiagnosis which has taken away their chance of a better outcome.

If you, or a loved one has been affected by a late or misdiagnosis, it’s not too late to seek help. Shine Lawyers’ Medical Law team can help you bring a claim for compensation to access the care, support and treatment you need. Get in touch today for more information.

Written by Clare Eves on . Last modified: October 30, 2017.

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  • Michelle beck wrote:

    In July 2015 on holiday I noticed quite a large lump on left breast I’m quite flat chested and it was quite obvious, once Home I went to BreastScreen cockburn, I tried making small talk with technician who was abrupt so I didn’t mention lump I was not asked why I was there whether I had a lump, I thought it’s pretty big she’s sure to notice when handling my small breast, she didn’t then I thought well it will show on mammogram, couple weeks past and I thought better go see gp since I hadn’t heard back with results, she didn’t have them so she phoned and was told computer problems so there was going to b a delay, she asked to have a look and feel and felt the lump and sent me off to get an ultrasound at a private breast clinic in Cottesloe, I think it was next day can’t really remember now, they found it and noticed inflamed lymph node took biopsies of both and said it looked suspicious, week later went back to gp to be told I had aggressive cancer and was sent to surgeon same day, next day I finally receive letter from breast screen which said “no sign of cancer”. I was rushed by surgeon operated on within days and found cancer spread to lymph node, I had to have chemo and herceptin for 18months. I have wanted to scream at BreastScreen because if I hadn’t gone back to gp and waited for their reply, I honestly hate to think of how far it could have spread. I find to talk about it extremely upsetting even today two years later, everyday I worry has it returned. I’m worried that this has happened to other woman.

    • Shine Lawyers wrote:

      Hi Michelle, I’m sorry to hear about your experience. Our medical law team might be able to assist with bringing a claim for compensation. I encourage you to get in touch with our New Client Team who will gather more details, talk through the services we offer and let you know if we are able to help. The contact details are here:

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