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August 1983

Delayed Diagnosis of Breast Cancer as a Result of Normal Mammograms

Arch Surg. 1983;118(8):992. doi:10.1001/archsurg.1983.01390080094027

To the Editor.—The result of delay in diagnosing and treating a breast cancer because of a falsely negative mammogram (Archives 1983;118:23-24) deserves attention by all physicians.

Because of the highly publicized results of screening mammography, with the roentgenographic detection of unsuspected and impalpable breast cancers, many physicians and their patients have come to rely on a negative radiology report as assurance that no malignant neoplasm is present, even if a palpable abnormality is present.

In a series of 106 consecutive breast cancers operated on, I reported the role of mammography.1 In 31% the preoperative mammogram was considered negative (demonstrating no pathologic features). The radiologist incorrectly described 10% of the lesions as benign, as either a cyst or fibroadenoma. A malignant neoplasm was suspected or correctly diagnosed in only 59% of these patients.

A biopsy was not performed initially in 12 patients because a cancer had not been diagnosed

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