Take Your Health Into Your Own Hands

Closeup image of surgical mask, stethoscope, and gloves

In this time of extreme control by the gatekeepers of health care you must be your own best advocate. Your health is the single most important element of enjoying your life. Being that October is Breast Cancer Awareness month this article will focus on early detection. Men do not stop reading! Men suffer from breast cancer also and it will likely affect someone you know based on statistical data.

PLEASE CONDUCT SELF EXAMINATIONS. Most breast cancer starts with a small lump or mass in the breast tissue. Fortunately, most masses are benign; which means they are not cancerous. Do not be afraid or hesitant to conduct self-examinations for fear of finding a lump. More importantly do not ignore a lump if you find one. This goes for the men reading this article as well. Men do not assume that it so highly unlikely that you do not have cancer and can simply ignore it. Ladies speak to the men in your life regarding self-examination as well.

EARLY DETECTION IS KEY! The level of how serious the breast cancer is measured by stage of the disease. In essence, how far the disease has spread when first discovered and diagnosed. There are two main systems utilized for assigning a stage of progression to breast cancer: the TNM and SEER systems.

The TNM system classifies the tumors utilizing information of tumor size and invasion into the nearby organs, lymph node involvement and the spread to distant organs (metastases). Once the TNM is determined, the more familiar stage 0, I, II, III, or IV is assigned. Stage 0 means that the tumor is contained. Stage I means that it is early stage invasive cancer. Stages III through IV simply correlate to the level of invasiveness of the cancer; stage IV being the most invasive.

The SEER system is somewhat simpler. SEER stands for: Surveillance, Epidemiology, and End Results.  This system uses the following classifications: Local Stage Tumors, Regional Stage Tumors and Distant Stage Tumors. Local Stage tumors are those that are confined to the breast. Regional stage tumors are those that have spread to surrounding tissue or nearby lymph nodes.  Distant Stage cancers have metastasized or spread to distant organs.

BREAST CANCER IS GENERALLY PAINLESS. Don’t be lulled into a false sense of security because you have no pain in your breast. Generally, breast cancer is first located due to a small lump in the breast that is completely painless. Other times it has already spread to lymph nodes in the armpit before the lump can even be felt. Accordingly, any persistent abnormality that one feels in the breast should be evaluated by a physician immediately.

BE YOUR BEST ADVOCATE. When your doctor examines you insist on mammograms and/or other appropriate studies to better diagnose the abnormality. Doctors often act as gatekeepers for the health care insurance companies. There is generally an incentive to refrain from ordering tests and referring the individual to a specialist. Moreover, once you have the study performed make sure you follow up with your doctor. Insist not only seeing the report from the radiologist but have the doctor show you the film as well.  Have your doctor identify the location and size of the lump. If your doctor states a biopsy is not necessary get a second opinion. This is your life and health and you should receive the best care possible to avoid the tragedies of a misdiagnosis.

In the unfortunate event of a misdiagnosis and the spread of an otherwise treatable breast tumor, you must seek legal representation immediately. The insurance industry and medical community have been very successful at limiting the amount of time within which a medical malpractice case can be filed. The industry has also created a complex system that must be followed in order to file a medical malpractice claim. So make certain to seek a qualified lawyer in the field of Medical Malpractice.

For more information on breast cancer prevention resources and to seek advice from a medical malpractice attorney, please visit our website or visit one of the following resources:

American Cancer Society
American Cancer Society – Breast Cancer
Center for Disease Control and Prevention
National Cancer Institute
Susan G. Komen Race For The Cure

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