When Pennsylvanians hear about misdiagnosis of a medical condition, your focus is likely on the doctor and his or her error. But what if the error comes from the radiologist who reads the images? Or what if the diagnosis is correct but could have—and maybe should have—been diagnosed earlier?

The American Cancer Society emphasizes that early detection is essential to the successful treatment of breast cancer. Catching it before it spreads makes treatment and recovery easier. Late-stage diagnoses give cancer the opportunity to spread and affect other areas of the body. Unfortunately, symptoms may not appear until the later stages of the disease, which only underscores the need for monthly self-exams and annual mammograms.

In general, those with an average risk of breast cancer should receive screenings as follows:

  • Age 40-44: Optional annual mammograms
  • Age 45-54: Get yearly mammograms
  • Age 55 and older: Annual or biannual mammograms

Those at higher risk of breast cancer should begin MRI and mammogram screenings at age 30. At increased risk are any woman with a family history of cancer, especially a close relative such as a parent, sibling or child. Other factors that give you a higher risk include having a BRCA 1 or 2 gene mutation and having received chest radiation therapy before age 30. Women who have or have a close relative with these syndromes are also at increased risk: Cowden syndrome, Bannayan-Riley-Ruvalcaba syndrome or Li-Fraumeni syndrome.

A misread mammogram or late diagnosis are possibilities with all cancers, including breast cancer. If an error is made in your case, you have the option of pursuing a malpractice lawsuit. However, you should be aware that the state’s statute of limitations for filing is two years from the date the error is found.

This article has general information on breast cancer and is not intended to be taken as legal advice.