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Are American Women Overdiagnosed, Overtreated for Cancer?

According to the American Cancer Society, more than a million Americans are diagnosed with cancer every year.  Patients typically undergo a variety of treatments including surgery, chemotherapy, radiation therapy, immunotherapy, laser targeted therapy, and even stem cell transplants.  What if all of that treatment and all of the fear was for nothing?  What if your cancer diagnosis didn't require treatment?  What if doctors were detecting something else that didn't require invasive treatments?

According to a recent study published in the New England Journal of Medicine, up to 1/3 of breast cancers, or an estimated 50,000 to 70,000 cases per year don't require treatment.  A recent study of the effectiveness of mammogram screening has suggested that not only are mammograms ineffective at catching many cancers, but some of these "cancers" are not only not malignant but also not a health threat. 

Are Doctors to Blame for Overdiagnosing or Overtreating?

The study concludes that mammograms are an imperfect tool that doctors utilize in order to catch cancer early enough to improve women's lives and extend their chances for survival.  The problem, according to researchers, is that these can sometimes have false alarms, or catch other items that pose no threat of death.  In the 1.4 estimated new cases of breast cancer per year, could doctors be overdiagnosing?

Tracking statistical data from 1976 to 2008, researchers made the startling discovery that while mammograms doubled the amount of early cases detected, the amount of late stage cancers detected dropped by 8%, suggesting misdiagnosis. If mammograms were an effective tool, researchers claim that there should be a ratio that suggests for every one new case detected, there is one fewer late stage case detected.

Cancer Treatment Can Threaten a Healthy Person's Health

Cancer treatments often involve radiation, injections, surgeries, and other life altering procedures.  Should a person with no need for cancer treatment undergo these procedures, they could face the following:

  • pain
  • nausea, vomiting
  • lymphedemia, or the build up of lymph fluids causing swelling
  • anemia
  • fatigue
  • infections
  • secondary cancers caused by the cancer treatment itself
  • altered mental state, confusion
Misdiagnosis could be a life altering experience for you, one which could significantly harm your health.  If you have suffered as a result of a doctor's misdiagnosis, you are encouraged to seek the medical help that you need.  You should also seek the help of a talented personal injury attorney who can fight for your rights and gain you the compensation you deserve.