Recently, researchers at the University of Washington conducted a survey of more than 350 radiologists at 7 different geographical sites of the Breast Cancer Surveillance Consortium. The radiologists were given a hypothetical set of mammograms which demonstrated that potentially cancerous classifications were increasing in number but had been misread by the previous radiologist as decreasing in number, thus resulting in a delay of cancer diagnosis.
When asked whether they would tell a patient about the error:
9% said they would definitely not disclose the error;
51% said they would disclose it only if asked by the patient;
26% said they would probably disclose the error; and
14% said they would definitely disclose the error.
When asked what language they would use to disclose the error in reading the mammograms, only 15% of the radiologists would tell the patient directly that an error had been made by the previous radiologist. The remainder either would say nothing further or would simply report that the lesions were increasing in number.
Failure to timely diagnose breast cancer can have catastrophic results and is a frequent cause of medical malpractice litigation. It should be of concern to patients that many radiologists, 74% of whom report they are concerned about being sued for misreading mammography studies, in most cases are not likely to honestly and straightforwardly tell the patient when an error has been made.
If you have concerns that your mammography results were misread, you should contact an experienced medical malpractice attorney. At our firm, all such consultations are free of charge.