Law increases doctor responsibility for detecting breast cancer

Medical professionals are not only responsible for treating patients when ill, they are also responsible for recognizing obvious signs of illness that have gone undetected. When a physician fails to diagnosea patient, or provides an inaccurate diagnosis, the physician could be held responsible. Notification laws that have been passed in a handful of states, not including Illinois, require physicians to notify women who may be at greater risk of breast cancer.

The measure takes the responsibility of diagnosing a patient one step further. Because of dense tissue, tumors can be harder to detect in a mammography report. In recent years there have been a growing number of women who were told the results of their mammograms were normal, when in reality the density of tissue obscured the fact that they had undetected cancerous growths. In these instances, a simple additional ultrasound test could save a woman’s life by increasing the chance of identifying breast cancer early on.

The notification law was first passed in Connecticut after lobbying by a woman who had been diagnosed with Stage III breast cancer even though her mammograms had come up negative. The American College of Radiology has encouraged lawmakers to look at consequences including the need for expensive ultrasound or MRI screening. Some physicians believe the law creates unnecessary alarm for women who would be affected by the law.

More states are weighing the importance of notification laws that would also hold physicians responsible for alerting women who may be at higher risk of having hard to detect breast cancer. Some believe the law is overkill while others believe that if it saves lives, it should be passed. It remains to be seen whether the law takes hold in more states in the coming years.

Source: CNBC, “NY bill would notify women of dense breast tissue,” June 27, 2012

Failure to Diagnose


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