For many patients with breast cancer an early diagnosis with early treatment can result in an excellent prognosis (there is a 90% to 99% five-year survival rate1 for patients with a stage I or II breast cancer diagnosis). However, a delay in diagnosis can result in a later-stage diagnosis and a poorer prognosis. Early screening techniques such as mammograms, breast MRIs, clinical breast exams, and self-checks are imperative in the fight to detect and treat breast cancer, before it is too late.
Routine mammograms postponed during the pandemic
The Ontario Breast Cancer Screening Program recommends routine screening mammograms every two years for women aged 50 to 74 years. A mammogram with an MRI or ultrasound is recommended every year for those women who are confirmed to be high risk and aged 30 to 69 years. Early detection and screening are important because survival rates of women with breast cancer can decline if detection of the disease is delayed. During the pandemic many of these mammograms, as well as screening for other cancers, were postponed, see:
- CBC article titled “400,000 fewer mammograms performed during pandemic: Ontario Medical Association”. (400,000 fewer mammograms performed during pandemic: Ontario Medical Association | CBC News)
- Canadian Cancer Society, Report of Living at the Crossroads of Covid-19 and Cancer (living-at-the-crossroads-of-covid-19-and-cancer-a-what-we-heard-report-by-ccs.pdf)
In some situations, a delay in cancer diagnosis can be due to the negligence of a health care professional, giving rise to a potential medical malpractice action. A cancer diagnosis is a stressful time for a patient and their family. A cancer diagnosis can be even more difficult when the question arises of whether earlier diagnosis was available and whether it would have made a difference in the clinical course and outcome.
Medical negligence and cancer care delays
Medical negligence actions usually involve complex medical and legal issues. These issues are often vigorously defended by health care providers. Investigating a potential case involves obtaining and reviewing relevant medical records, identifying the potential issues, and consulting with experts to determine whether there were any breaches of the standard of care that caused injury or harm. In a potential case involving a delay in breast cancer diagnosis, a consultation with an expert oncologist who specializes in breast cancer is usually required.
At Siskinds LLP, we have experience investigating and litigating medical malpractice actions involving a delay in breast cancer diagnosis. We are experienced at spotting the relevant issues and determining if the case is likely to be successful. With supportive expert evidence, we are prepared to proceed to trial and through to appeal if necessary. We have an extensive network of well-respected experts with vast knowledge and experience to provide opinion evidence for our initial case assessments through to testifying at trial. We have experience litigating and resolving cases of delayed diagnosis of breast cancer.
Deboer v Dr. D M Kolyn et al — delayed cancer diagnosis
Siskinds represented the breast cancer plaintiff. The trial decision awarded damages to the plaintiff for breaches of the standard of care by a radiologist and a general surgeon, which delayed the diagnosis of the plaintiff’s cancer. The Trial Judge held that but for the defendants’ negligence, the plaintiff would not be suffering from cancer metastases in her bones and would not die prematurely from this disease. The full case can be found at 2016 ONSC 7108 (CanLII) | Deboer v Dr. D. M. Kolyn | CanLII*
As litigators with a strong knowledge base in health sciences, we understand the relevant medical and legal issues. We are also aware of the many stressors that families navigating a cancer diagnosis can face. We strive to ensure that you and your loved ones feel heard and supported as we work with you towards a successful resolution of your case.
Do you require assistance with a potential medical malpractice action?
At Siskinds LLP, we have a team of lawyers and staff with expertise in medical negligence cases and health law, with extensive experience in assessing and litigating complex medical negligence cases.
If you have any questions or would like more information on this topic, please contact me at [email protected] or call 877-672-2121.
*Past results are not necessarily indicative of future results and that litigation outcomes will vary according to the facts in individual cases
1 Survival statistics for breast cancer | Canadian Cancer Society
Survival for breast cancer | Breast Cancer | Cancer Research UK