Maryland Medical Malpractice and the New Mammograms After 50 Study

After many years of doctors advising women to start getting routine yearly breast cancer screening mammograms at age 40 — a new study comes out recommending women wait until age 50 for a first mammogram, then get one every two years after that. The study was released in Nov. ’09 by the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force (see link below).

News of the study quickly reverberated through the national and Maryland medical communities, with many doctors decrying the results and patients wondering what to do. Some hospitals reported that on the day the study results were released, patients cancelled their mammograms in record numbers.

As Baltimore injury and wrongful death attorneys who have assisted families with Maryland medical malpractice lawsuits, we are left to wonder how these new guidelines might affect medical care and cancer prevention.

One of the types of medical malpractice claims that we sadly see all too often in Maryland and around the country is cancer misdiagnosis. To successfully prosecute a misdiagnosis claim in the Maryland courts, the plaintiff (patient) and their lawyers must demonstrate that medical error or negligence led to a patient’s cancer being overlooked, misdiagnosed, or improperly treated — and that the patient suffered personal injury or death because of those medical errors.

Maryland medical malpractice litigation is governed by very specific rules and regulations regarding liability, burden of proof and notice to any contemplated defendant. The Task Force that issued the “mammograms start at 50” guidelines did so with the caveat that women should consult with their doctors. However we’re left to wonder how this will affect the Maryland medical community’s responsibility to successfully prevent, diagnose, and treat cancer in patients who are hearing that they need less — not more — preventative medicine.

The American Cancer Society says it will not change its recommendation that women should start getting annual screening mammograms at age 40 (see link to statement below).

Task force opposes routine mammograms for women age 40-49
CNN.com Nov. 16, 2009

Screening for Breast Cancer
U.S. Preventive Services Task Force, Nov. 2009
Finding Breast Cancer Early: Age 40, Every Year
American Cancer Society, Dr. Len’s Cancer Blog Nov. 16, 2009