A delay in diagnosis of cancer can spell disaster for young women with breast cancer. Physicians often miss a breast cancer diagnosis in young women because of a simple bias that the disease usually affects only older women. This is just not true. It is well-known that breast cancer can afflict younger women (usually defined as women under the age of 40, but can even afflict women in their teens and 20s). A recent study shows exactly why it is imperative for physicians to timely diagnosis younger women with breast cancer.
Studies show that 5 to 6% of breast cancers are found in women between the ages of 15 and 39. Breast cancer in younger women tends to be more aggressive. A recent study shows that a delay in treatment as short as 6 weeks can significantly reduce life expectancy for younger women. A 2013 article published in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) reports that in younger women, a treatment delay longer than 6 weeks is associated with a significantly worse 5-year survival compared with those who were treated within 2 weeks or within 2 to 4 weeks (78%, 84% and 83%, respectively).
The general rule is that when a woman reports a new finding in her breast, like a bump or lump, the breast must be promptly and thoroughly imaged. If the imaging cannot rule out cancer, then a biopsy must be performed immediately. When doctors write off patient’s concerns about new breast findings, making a dangerous assumption that the patient is “too young for cancer,” and thereby violates safe medical practice, a medical negligence case may exist.
A delay in diagnosis of cancer can result in progression of the disease from an early curable stage to a terminal stage. The horror of being diagnosed with cancer pales in comparison to news that the cancer has spread because a physician ignored early warning signs. If this occurs, it would be wise to get advice from a medical malpractice attorney soon after the correct diagnosis is made.