Negative Mammograms Lead to False Sense of Security

Getting Regular Mammograms

In recent years, there has been a lot of attention given to the early detection and treatment of breast cancer, and one of women’s greatest allies in the fight has been getting regular mammograms. For many women, this regular testing has been able to identify tumors that women may not necessarily find on their own through self-exams. However, not everyone knows or understands the shortcomings of mammograms, and it may be this lack of knowledge that could fuel future medical malpractice suits. There are many times when a mammogram will not show obvious tumors but will show dense breast tissue.

Mammograms are the most highly encouraged diagnostic method

New legislation that’s being considered in New York would require that women be informed when they have dense tissue. The chance that a woman really does have breast cancer, or is destined to develop it, is greatly increased when dense breast tissue is present. Dense breast tissue has a higher percentage of connective tissue versus fat, which can sometimes hide tumors, and 40% of women have it. Without this notification, many women think they are fine, and many are discovering mere months after receiving benign results from a mammogram that they do in fact have Stage III or Stage IV breast cancer. Although the mammogram is the most highly encouraged diagnostic method and among the least expensive there are other more conclusive methods of detection such as an ultrasound or an MRI.


There are times when these diagnostic methods undoubtedly save lives, but many patients don’t get these tests because their insurance does not cover them. If this bill becomes law and doctors fail to disclose to patients that they have dense breast tissue, it’s possible that those neglected patients could turn around and sue for medical malpractice. If they do find that they have cancer and it progresses due to the information that a doctor could and should have provided, then it would essentially be like a failure to diagnose incident. When there is an update regarding this proposal, we will add a new post. Source: Businessweek, “NY bill would notify women of dense breast tissue,” Mary Esch, June 27, 2012


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