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Concerns about new mammography standards

Nov 9, 2015 | Failure to Diagnose

New York physicians and patients may be surprised at recent changes to the breast cancer screening standards recommended by the American Cancer Society. The announcement has received varying reactions related to the changes. For example, the society now recommends that women over the age of 55 receive mammograms every two years. Those who have average risk factors from ages 40 to 44 are not advised to obtain mammograms. Further, the society indicates that breast exams performed by physicians are not necessary.

Those who disagree with the announcement by the American Cancer Society express concern about possible increases in failure to diagnose cancer. Statistically, those in favor of more consistent mammography indicate that this has been responsible for a reduction of 30 percent in breast cancer deaths. Additionally, they note that a 90 percent survival rate for breast cancer patients is attributed to early detection through exams and mammography.

Those promoting the changed recommendations indicate that there may be negative health repercussions because of excessive radiology and unnecessary surgical procedures. However, opponents of the change counter that complications have been overstated by those making the changes. Further, there are allegations that the committee making the changes included bias on the part of those seeking to reduce health care costs. A balance may have been helpful through the inclusion of committee members who treat breast cancer patients.

A patient might face challenges if coverage for annual screenings is changed based on the recommendations of the American Cancer Society. If an individual with significant risk factors does not receive regular screening and is later diagnosed with breast cancer, there is a possibility of not being diagnosed until the disease is advanced. There could be legal implications for a provider who has failed to identify an individual’s risk factors or to educate a patient about important changes in testing recommendations.