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Breast Cancer Misdiagnosis Lawyer

A breast cancer misdiagnosis delays detection and treatment, often with devastating results for patients and families. This often occurs as a result of medical negligence. Our medical malpractice lawyers help breast cancer patients harmed by misdiagnosis recover substantial compensation.

When breast cancer is allowed to progress beyond its early stages due to a misdiagnosis, a woman’s treatment options, quality of life, and survival rate can be significantly diminished. A misdiagnosis may be the result of medical negligence. When doctors harm patients by failing to provide a reasonable standard of care, our medical malpractice lawyers are ready to hold them accountable. 

If current trends continue, an estimated 11,530 women will be diagnosed with breast cancer in Illinois in 2023, and an estimated 1,720 will die, according to the American Cancer Society. Many of these deaths could be prevented with a timely diagnosis.

Why Hire the Cancer Misdiagnosis Attorneys at Levin & Perconti?

If a breast cancer misdiagnosis has harmed you or your loved one, you need a medical malpractice attorney with the experience and resources necessary to stand up to the doctor’s insurance company. Proving such a case requires extensive testimony by expert witnesses who can explain how the doctor erred and how the errors worsened the outcome. 

When you choose Levin & Perconti, we will invest considerable resources into investigating and proving your case to win you the highest award possible. We provide all of this with no upfront costs for you. We work on a contingency fee basis, meaning your lawsuit will cost you nothing unless your case is successfully resolved.  

Our cancer misdiagnosis attorneys have won more than a billion dollars in damages for our clients. We have built a successful track record of consistently winning remarkable case results for misdiagnosed cancer patients, including the following: 

  • $14 million record verdict against a doctor and hospital for failing to follow up on abnormal chest X-ray results, causing a substantial delay in the diagnosis of lung cancer 
  • $8.1 million medical malpractice verdict on behalf of a family whose mother died of lung cancer after a failure to diagnose 
  • $2.3 million settlement over a laboratory’s failure to properly read pap smears, resulting in a cervical cancer misdiagnosis and eventual death of a 35-year-old mother of three 

We have stood up for those injured since 1992, and our attorneys have more than 200 years of combined experience. We understand the devastation a cancer misdiagnosis causes a patient and their family, and as a result, we are passionate about getting justice for our clients.  

What Types of Compensation Are Available for a Breast Cancer Misdiagnosis?

Medical malpractice victims in Illinois have a right to recover economic and non-economic damages. Economic damages are compensation for your monetary losses, and non-economic damages are compensation for your tougher to quantify losses like pain and suffering. 

Economic damages may include the following: 

  • Medical expenses 
  • Surgery costs 
  • Lost wages 
  • Future medical expenses 
  • Projected lifetime lost wages 

Non-economic damages include compensation for the following: 

  • Physical pain 
  • Emotional distress 
  • Inconvenience 
  • Humiliation 
  • Loss of consortium 
  • Loss of society 
  • Loss of bodily functions 
  • Loss of fertility 

The amount of compensation you can recover will vary depending on how severely the misdiagnosis impacted your outcome and its impact on your finances. 

Can I Recover Compensation if My Family Member Died After a Breast Cancer Misdiagnosis? 

A death from misdiagnosis of breast cancer is especially tragic because it could have been prevented with a timely diagnosis. As a result, you and your family may qualify for substantial compensation after your loved one’s death. Our wrongful death attorneys can help your family file a lawsuit to recover the following damages: 

  • Your loved one’s pain and suffering 
  • Your family’s grief and suffering 
  • Burial and funeral expenses 
  • Your loved one’s medical expenses 
  • The projected lifetime lost wages of your loved one 
  • Lost inheritance 
  • Loss of comfort 
  • Loss of support 
  • Loss of parental guidance 

Can I Sue a Doctor for Misdiagnosing Breast Cancer?

If breast cancer was misdiagnosed due to negligence, and you suffered harm, you may be able to pursue damages from any health care provider that contributed to the misdiagnosis. Responsible parties may include the following: 

  • A primary care doctor 
  • An oncologist 
  • A laboratory pathologist 
  • A radiologist 
  • A hospital or doctor’s office that employs a negligent health care provider 

What Is Breast Cancer?

Cancer is characterized by abnormal and older cells failing to die off as new cells are born, resulting in the formation of masses, known as tumors. Over time, tumors grow larger, and cancer cells break away and spread throughout the body, causing pain and affecting organs’ ability to function.  

Breast cancer is cancer that begins in the breast. It may begin anywhere in the breast, including the following: 

  • The milk glands, also known as lobules, which produce milk  
  • The milk ducts, which carry milk from the lobules to the nipples 
  • The nipple 
  • Fat and connective tissue 
  • Blood vessels 
  • Lymph vessels  

Types of Breast Cancer 

There are multiple types of breast cancer, which are defined based on the characteristics of the cancer cells and where they began. A diagnosing physician must differentiate which type you have because the treatment options vary, according to the American Cancer Society. 

Breast cancer may be classified as carcinoma or adenocarcinoma. Carcinoma is a tumor that starts in the cells that line the breasts. Adenocarcinoma begins in the milk ducts and milk glands. 

Breast cancer may also be classified as invasive or non-invasive. Ductal carcinoma in situ is a non-invasive breast cancer that has not spread from the original site. However, it could become invasive. 

Invasive breast cancer is breast cancer that has spread into the surrounding tissues. Most of the breast cancer types are invasive and include the following: 

  • Triple-negative breast cancer is an aggressive form of invasive breast cancer in which the cancer cells do not have estrogen or progesterone receptors and produce very little of a protein known as HER2.  This type accounts for 15 percent of breast cancers. 
  • Inflammatory breast cancer is an aggressive form of invasive breast cancer that blocks lymph vessels in the skin, resulting in an inflamed appearance. It accounts for one to five percent of breast cancers. 
  • Paget Disease of the Breast is an invasive breast cancer that starts in the breast ducts and spreads to the skin of the nipple, then to the areola, the skin surrounding the nipple. It accounts for one to three percent of breast cancer cases. 
  • Angiosarcoma is a rare invasive breast cancer that starts in the cells that line the blood vessels or lymph vessels and may involve the tissue or skin of the breast. It accounts for less than one percent of cases. 
  • Phyllodes tumor is a rare breast tumor that develops in the breast’s connective tissue rather than in the ducts or milk glands. It is most often benign but can be malignant.  

According to the Mayo Clinic, breast cancer may be hormone-receptor positive or negative and HER2 positive or negative. These types of cancer have the following distinctions: 

  • Estrogen receptor-positive – Uses the hormone estrogen to grow 
  • Progesterone receptor-positive – Uses the hormone progesterone to grow 
  • Hormone receptor-negative – Not sensitive to either hormone, meaning hormone treatment will be ineffective 

HER2 is a growth-promoting protein produced by the HER2 gene. HER2-positive breast cancer occurs when too many copies of the genes are within the cancer cells. Targeted therapy aims to shut down this protein to slow cancer growth and kill the cells. Most breast cancer is hormone receptor or HER2 positive. 

What Is a Breast Cancer Misdiagnosis?

A breast cancer misdiagnosis is a false positive or false negative, or it may be a diagnosis of the wrong type of breast cancer.  

Several conditions mimic breast cancer. Thus, breast cancer can be wrongly diagnosed as one of these conditions, or one can be wrongly diagnosed as breast cancer. According to Insights into Imaging, the conditions described below may be mistaken for breast cancer: 

Inflammatory Breast Conditions 

These conditions may present with swelling or masses similar to those seen in inflammatory breast cancer. 

  • Mastitis – Inflammation of breast tissue which may involve infection 
  • Breast abscess – A complication of mastitis 
  • Granulomatous mastitis – An infection of the breast tissue that often presents as a firm mass 
  • Lymphocytic mastopathy – A painless, movable breast mass that occurs near the milk-producing glands and blood vessels in the breast tissue 
  • Connective tissue disorders – Rare disorders such as amyloidosis and sarcoidosis 

Proliferative Breast Conditions 

Proliferative conditions are non-malignant conditions that spread. 

  • Fat necrosis – The destruction of fat cells often triggered by trauma, infection, surgery, or radiation  
  • Stromal fibrosis – A benign lesion consisting of fibrous connective tissue 
  • Sclerosing adenosis – A benign condition characterized by fibrous tissue similar to scar tissue in the glands that produce breastmilk 

Fat necrosis lumps may result from scar tissue that forms as fat cells are destroyed. This condition generally does not require treatment. Symptoms may include palpable masses, pain, and skin changes similar to those seen in breast cancer. 

Benign Breast Tumors 

Benign breast tumors may be alarming, but they rarely cause harm and do not spread. Benign breast tumors include the following: 

  • Hamartoma – A benign growth of tissue comprised of a mixture of other cells found in the breast, often known as a breast within a breast 
  • Pseudoangiomatous hyperplasia – A benign mass 
  • Tubular adenoma – A benign tumor 
  • Desmoid fibromatosis – A rare benign tumor 
  • Granular cell tumor – An extremely rare benign tumor that originates in the brain 

A Case Study 

The Ohio State University published the tragic story of Lori Grennan, who was wrongly diagnosed with mastitis when she actually had inflammatory breast cancer. As a result of the misdiagnosis, her breast cancer progressed to stage four before it was identified.  

Lori was a physician, and she knew something more was wrong. However, her doctors routinely dismissed her concerns. After repeated dismissals by her doctors, she referred herself to a breast cancer expert who identified the inflammatory breast cancer, but it was too late. Lori Grennan died at the young age of 36, leaving two young children behind.  

Diagnosis of the Wrong Types of Breast Cancer 

A 2018 study by Moffitt Cancer Center in Florida found that triple-negative breast cancer may frequently be over diagnosed. Researchers reviewed more than 560 breast cancer cases, including 113 triple-negative breast cancer cases. Upon retesting biomarkers, researchers discovered that 28 percent of the triple-negative cases should be reclassified as hormone receptor-positive. 

Triple-negative breast cancer is difficult to treat, with fewer treatment options and a tendency to be especially aggressive. It is most likely to occur in younger patients, blacks, Hispanics, and people with a genetic predisposition for cancer.  

Researchers concluded that retesting of triple-negative breast cancers should be completed before selecting a treatment plan. This can have an important impact on survival. 

How Is Breast Cancer Diagnosed?

Breast cancer diagnosis typically begins with a screening mammogram. Sometimes, a woman may discover a lump while bathing or dressing. This can also be assessed through mammography. If a screening mammogram detects an abnormality, doctors will order further testing. According to the Mayo Clinic, this may include the following: 

  • Diagnostic mammogram – A more detailed mammogram that takes pictures from different angles and zooms in on suspicious areas 
  • Breast ultrasound – The use of sound waves to produce images of masses located deep within the breast tissue, often used to determine whether a lump is solid or a fluid-filled cyst 
  • Biopsy – A tissue sample of the suspicious mass obtained with a specialized needle guided by X-Ray or other imaging methods 
  • Breast magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) – The use of magnets and radio waves to produce detailed images of breast tissue with the help of a contrast die 

A biopsy is the only definitive way to confirm a breast cancer diagnosis. The biopsy sample is analyzed in a lab by pathologists who view the sample under a microscope to determine whether the cells are cancerous. If they test positive, the pathologists can also determine your type of cancer and whether the cells have hormone receptors that could influence treatment options. 

The Importance of Getting the Right Diagnosis the First Time

The five-year survival rate is 99 percent when breast cancer is caught early. If not detected until after cancer has spread to distant body parts outside the breast area, the survival rate drops to 30 percent. Treatment is generally less invasive and more successful after an early diagnosis, resulting in a higher quality of life and reduced treatment costs. 

Many women with an early diagnosis of breast cancer can avoid radical surgery such as a mastectomy, and systemic treatment such as chemotherapy may also be avoided. A late diagnosis almost always necessitates aggressive treatment, such as radiation and systemic therapy, including hormonal therapy and chemotherapy.  

Breast cancer misdiagnosis may occur at any stage in the diagnostic process, including during a screening mammogram. When breast cancer is misdiagnosed, the correct diagnosis is often not discovered until months or years later, after it has advanced to a late stage and spread throughout the body.  Breast cancer that has spread is known as metastatic breast cancer. 

How Often Are Screening Mammograms Recommended? 

The American Cancer Society recommends women with an average risk for breast cancer receive annual mammograms at age 45. At 55, women may switch to every other year for as long as they remain in good health and are expected to live for at least an additional ten years.

The Effects of Treatment Following a Late Diagnosis

While life-saving, breast cancer treatments required during the late stages can cause severe short-term and long-term side effects. These radical therapies can often be avoided if the doctor accurately diagnoses breast cancer during routine mammography screenings. 


Chemotherapy is well-known for causing severe short-term side effects, including nausea, vomiting, hair loss, weight loss, and mouth sores. However, chemotherapy can also cause severe long-term or permanent effects, which include the following, according to the Mayo Clinic: 

  • Dental problems 
  • Early menopause 
  • Hearing loss 
  • Heart problems 
  • Increased risk of other cancers 
  • Infertility 
  • Loss of taste 
  • Lung disease 
  • Nerve damage 
  • Memory issues 
  • Osteoporosis 
  • Problems with digestion 
  • Reduced lung capacity 

Radiation Therapy 

The Mayo Clinic has also identified lifelong effects of radiation therapy, including the following: 

  • Cavities and tooth decay 
  • Early menopause 
  • Heart and vascular problems 
  • Hypothyroidism 
  • Increased risk of other cancers 
  • Increased risk of stroke 
  • Infertility 
  • Intestinal problems 
  • Lung disease 
  • Lymphedema 
  • Memory issues 
  • Osteoporosis 

Hormone Therapy 

Hormone therapy may be used during all stages of breast cancer and is even under investigation as a form of prevention, according to the National Cancer Institute. It is used in patients with hormone receptor-positive breast cancer.  

The most well-known hormone medication is Tamoxifen, which is generally prescribed for five years to people with an early diagnosis.  

Women with metastatic breast cancer may require targeted therapy with hormone therapy, and the hormone therapy offered may include an especially strong medication, Faslodex, in addition to Tamoxifen.  

According to the Mayo Clinic, the long-term effects of hormone therapy during breast cancer treatment include the following: 

  • Blood clots 
  • Hot flashes 
  • Increased risk of other cancers 
  • Menopausal symptoms 
  • Osteoporosis 
  • Sexual side effects 

How Is Breast Cancer Stage Determined?

Breast cancer staging is based on a system known as the TNM system, which the American Cancer Society breaks down as follows: 

  • T – The size of the tumor 
  • N – Whether the tumor has spread to the lymph nodes, and how many are affected 
  • M – Whether cancer has spread to distant organs and to what extent 

Each category is then staged between zero and three or four, with zero meaning the cancer has not progressed in the category and higher numbers signaling higher degrees of progression.  

For example, T0 means no mass has been found, and T1 to 4 signals the presence of a tumor and its size. The N and M categories work similarly, with 0 denoting no spread of the tumor and the higher numbers indicating a wider spread. 

How Often Does Breast Cancer Misdiagnosis Occur?

According to Oncology News International, breast cancer is the leading cause of medical malpractice lawsuits, with misdiagnosis being the most common medical malpractice lawsuit related to breast cancer. Approximately 75 percent of claimants are under 45, with a median age of 42.  

In most of these cases, physicians found a mass upon examination, but the mammography screening was negative. These physicians erred by failing to offer additional laboratory testing to rule out cancer since mammograms are not 100 percent accurate, especially in patients younger than 50. 

Mammograms can also yield false positives. According to the National Cancer Institute, approximately 20 percent of mammograms result in false negatives. More than 50 percent of women screened annually will experience a false positive, which can lead to anxiety and invasive testing. Mammograms can also find non-invasive tumors that do not need treatment. 

According to a Duke University study of 36,000 women aged 50-74, approximately 15 percent of patients treated for breast cancer did not need it. This amounts to about one of every seven women treated for breast cancer.  

According to Stat News, Duke University researchers acknowledged the rate of overdiagnosis may be as high as 54 percent. In 2012, a New England Journal of Medicine paper suggested an overdiagnosis rate of approximately 31 percent. Unfortunately, there is no consensus on the real rate of misdiagnosis.

Is Breast Cancer Misdiagnosis a Form of Medical Malpractice?

Breast cancer misdiagnosis often occurs as a result of medical malpractice. However, a misdiagnosis by itself is insufficient to qualify as medical malpractice. A misdiagnosis is only considered medical malpractice if you can prove the following: 

  • The misdiagnosis occurred because of medical negligence 
  • You suffered an injury because of the negligence 

In addition, you must be able to prove that you had a doctor-patient relationship with the health care provider who misdiagnosed you and that the injuries you suffered would not have occurred were it not for the misdiagnosis 

Medical Negligence that May Cause a Misdiagnosis 

Medical negligence may result in the following errors, which can lead to a misdiagnosis of breast cancer: 

  • Failure to perform additional tests when there is a mass accompanied by a negative mammography result 
  • Inaccurate reading of a mammogram or other diagnostic tests 
  • Dismissal of the patient’s symptoms because of age or other assumptions 
  • Failure to refer a patient to an oncologist 

Injuries Associated with the Misdiagnosis of Breast Cancer 

The primary consequence of misdiagnosis is it can cause you to receive unnecessary treatment for a condition you do not have while not receiving the treatment you need for a condition you do have.  This may cause the following injuries and losses: 

  • More uncomfortable treatments with long-term side effects 
  • A shortened lifespan 
  • A longer recovery period 
  • Increased medical expenses 
  • Lost wages 
  • Mental anguish 
  • Long-term disability 
  • Premature death 

Causes of Breast Cancer Diagnostic Errors

A breast cancer misdiagnosis may occur as a result of the following: 

  • Failure to accurately read mammograms 
  • Failure to order follow-up screening 
  • Incorrect reading of follow-up tests 
  • Failure to consult with an oncologist 
  • Failure to refer the patient to a specialist 

These errors may stem from false assumptions and biases based on a woman’s age or race.  

Age-Related Misdiagnosis 

Breast cancer is uncommon in women younger than 40 and is most common after age 50. Routine screening is generally not offered to patients younger than 40 for this reason. When a younger patient finds a mass, a doctor may assume it is benign. 

This occurred in the case of Elizabeth Vines of Seattle, Washington, who was misdiagnosed with a cyst at 35 years old. Her doctor repeatedly dismissed her concerns, telling her she was young and had no history of breast cancer, even after having a breast ultrasound.  

She was finally diagnosed at a breast cancer clinic after her doctor referred her to have the cyst removed. By this time, the tumor had grown to a very large size of 12 centimeters. 

Her oncologist diagnosed her with stage 3 breast cancer, an advanced stage in which the cancer had already spread. The oncologist estimated she had been breast-cancer positive for nine months. Fortunately, she survived, but her advanced cancer required aggressive chemotherapy and hormone therapy. 

Racial Biases 

According to a study published in the Journal of the American College of Radiology, black women have double the risk of experiencing a delayed diagnosis of breast cancer, defined as a delay of 45 days or more after screening.  

White women have a higher incidence of breast cancer, but Black women have the highest mortality rates from the disease, exceeding white women by 40 percent and Asian/Pacific Islanders by two-and-a-half times.  In Illinois, the death rate in black women with breast cancer is 50 percent higher than in white women.  


Although breast cancer in men is rare, it does occur. In the United States, approximately 2,650 men are diagnosed with breast cancer yearly. Men are not routinely screened for breast cancer. Even if they find a lump in the breast area, a doctor may dismiss it due to the disease’s association with women. 

What Should I Do If I Suspect I Have Been Misdiagnosed?

For all women’s health issues, it is important to learn to self-advocate. Unfortunately, women’s health concerns are routinely dismissed. If you suspect you have been misdiagnosed, but your doctor continues to dismiss your concerns, you should not give up until a proper investigation is done. You can accomplish this by doing the following: 

  • Seek a second opinion 
  • Request a referral to a breast specialist or oncologist 
  • Insist on receiving a breast ultrasound or MRI 
  • Consider finding a new primary care doctor 

This is your health and your life. You are well within your rights to question a diagnosis if you suspect something is wrong. 

If you learn you have been misdiagnosed, contact a lawyer as soon as possible. A cancer misdiagnosis lawyer at Levin & Perconti can determine the degree to which you were harmed by the misdiagnosis and the nature of your doctor’s negligence. This will help establish a case against your doctor. 

Symptoms and Warning Signs of Breast Cancer 

According to the Centers for Disease Control, you should notify your doctor and request testing for breast cancer if you develop any of the following symptoms: 

  • A lump in your breast or underarms 
  • Thickening or swelling in either breast 
  • Irritated or dimpled skin 
  • Red or flaky skin near the nipple area 
  • An inverted nipple 
  • Pain in the nipple area or any area of the breast 
  • Nipple discharge or blood 
  • A change in the size or shape of either breast 

These symptoms do not always mean you have cancer, but they should be investigated to rule it out. 

When Should I Contact an Attorney?

Illinois personal injury law limits the time you have to file a medical malpractice lawsuit. This is known as a statute of limitations. The Illinois statute of limitations for medical malpractice is two years from the date you discovered the injury, up to four years after the date the health care provider committed the error. 

However, it is important that you not wait to contact an attorney. Extensive preparation is required before a lawsuit can be filed, and early involvement can help us build the strongest case possible and maximize the compensation you recover.

Contact Levin & Perconti Today for a Free Consultation

If a breast cancer misdiagnosis has harmed you or your loved one, you may be entitled to recover substantial compensation. Contact us today to schedule a free, confidential case review. 

However, it is important that you not wait to contact an attorney. Extensive preparation is required before a lawsuit can be filed, and early involvement can help us build the strongest case possible and maximize the compensation you recover.