A misdiagnosis of any type can negatively impact a patient, but when a medical professional misses a cancer diagnosis, the consequences can be severe.
With advanced imaging technology, many cancers can be diagnosed quickly and accurately, which means that when a medical professional fails to order the appropriate test or fails to recognize a finding that requires follow-up, the delay and mean the difference between a successful treatment and a late-stage cancer diagnosis.
Aside from a delay in treatment, a misdiagnosis can result in adverse reactions to more aggressive treatment like chemotherapy and radiation therapy.
What are the common types of cancer that are often misdiagnosed?
The common types of cancer that often are misdiagnosed by medical professionals include:
Breast cancer is the most common form of cancer found in women. A complete workup to make an informed diagnosis of includes a physical exam, a mammogram, a sonogram, an MRI, and a biopsy. Although mammograms are often preformed routinely, doctors must accurately interpret the results and follow-up if there are any suspicious findings. Key questions to ask are:
- Was a mammogram performed and were the results interpreted accurately?
- Were any suspicious findings investigated?
- Was a biopsy or other follow-up test ordered?
- Was the appropriate type of biopsy performed, and was it performed correctly?
- Were the biopsy results interpreted accurately and any necessary follow-up performed?
- If there are any medications that contribute to breast cancer growth, were the prescriptions modified appropriately?
Nearly 150,000 men and woman are diagnosed with colon cancer each year. The primary method of screening or testing for colon cancer is a colonoscopy. As with breast cancer the key questions to ask about a colon cancer are:
- Was the colonoscopy performed correctly? If there was a problem visualizing the entire colon, was the test rescheduled?
- Were the colonoscopy results interpreted correctly?
- If there were any suspicious findings, a biopsy is usually performed immediately. Was the biopsy performed correctly and interpreted accurately?
Lung cancer, unfortunately, causes more deaths than the next four most common cancers, combined (prostate, pancreatic, breast, and colon). The timing of diagnosis can make a big difference in survival for this type of cancer. If the cancer is diagnosed before it has spread, more than half of people survive more than 5 years. If the cancer has spread outside of the lungs, then the five-year survival rate is about 3 percent. Yet early diagnosis is difficult because it may be confused with other common lung conditions such as chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, bronchitis, pneumonia, and asthma.
On July 30, 2013, a panel of doctors issued draft recommendations that smokers and people who had smoked in the last 15 years should receive annual CT scans. This means that people in these categories will have their screening covered by Medicare and other insurance companies. Key questions to ask about a lung cancer diagnosis are:
- Were appropriate screening tests conducted based on the latest science and recommendations?
- Were suspicious physical symptoms investigated properly?
- Were the follow-up tests ordered appropriately, such as an X-ray, CT scan, MRI, PET scan, sputum cytology, or bronchoscopy?
- Were any follow-up tests interpreted correctly?
- If a biopsy was indicated, was it ordered and performed correctly?
- Based on all of the above, was an early diagnosis missed, resulting in more aggressive therapy and reduced chances of survival?
A diagnosis of bladder cancer can often be delayed because it may confused or assumed to be symptoms of other conditions such as a urinary tract infection, bladder infection, cystitis, overactive bladder, and/or pyelonephritis. Key questions to consider are:
- Did your doctor take an appropriate history at regular intervals to detect changes in bladder frequency, dysuria, or urgency?
- Was a cystoscopy, urinalysis, or a test for tumor markers ordered when there was reason for concern about bladder cancer?
- Were appropriate follow-up tests conducted, such as biopsies, urine cytology, urine culture, or a pyelogram?
Kidney cancer can be difficult to diagnose because some symptoms are very similar to those of other illnesses, most notably kidney infections and/or cysts. If someone has symptoms associated with kidney cancer, then it is important for a doctor to take a detailed history and determine if more test are appropriate. Questions to consider are:
- Was urinalysis conducted appropriately as an early screening measure?
- If someone has blood in his or her urine, unexplained lower back pain, a lump on the lower back, fatigue, unexplained weight loss, and/or a prolonged fever without an infection or anemia, should a doctor consider follow-up tests?
- Follow-up tests are similar to those used to diagnose bladder cancer. Were the right tests ordered, properly administered, and properly interpreted?
Skin cancers are the most common type of cancer, but fortunately, they generally have a good survival rate. Suspicious skin changes are investigated with a biopsy, but skin changes first need to be identified. Doctors are therefore responsible for taking a proper a history and explaining to a patient the type of skin changes to look for. Doctors must also order a biopsy when appropriate, and use proper techniques and analysis to evaluate it.
What are common causes of delayed cancer diagnoses?
The delayed or misdiagnosis of cancer can stem from a variety of negligent actions on behalf of medical professionals including:
- Failure to perform a thorough and complete physical examination.
- Failure to perform a thorough and complete history.
- Failure to perform/order proper diagnostic testing.
- Improperly conducting diagnostic tests.
- Misinterpretation of test results.
- Failure to recommend proper cancer screening tests in accordance with medical protocol.
- Failure to refer patients to the correct specialist.
What are the common injuries caused by a delay in or an inaccurate diagnosis of cancer?
In terms of treatment, timing is everything, and early detection is vital to enhance a patient’s chance of survival. A delay in or an inaccurate diagnosis of cancer can result in additional damages including:
- Premature death.
- Inoperable cancer.
- Severe physical pain.
- Treatment options that are more expensive.
- Treatment options that are more invasive, aggressive, and painful.
- Long-term or permanent disability.
What should I do if I was harmed by a delayed cancer diagnosis?
If you or a loved one has suffered an injury because of a cancer misdiagnosis, you should begin by ensuring that you find a doctor who can properly treat you from that point on. Nothing is more important than your own personal health. Once the health condition at issue is being treated, you should consider whether your injury was the result of improper procedures or practices that could harm others.
The human body is, of course, complicated, and sometimes a condition is missed without anyone being at fault. Key questions to consider in addressing this issue are:
- Was there a doctor-patient relationship?
- Did the doctor fail to exercise reasonable care?
- Did the delay in diagnosis cause an injury?
If the answer to these questions is yes, then contact the experienced medical malpractice lawyers at Lopez McHugh for a free consultation to understand what legal rights you may have, and how a lawsuit may provide compensation for your medical care and prevent injury to others.
The medical malpractice attorneys at Lopez McHugh have the knowledge and resources to fight for your recovery and protect your financial interests. We have a proven track record of success in handling complex medical malpractice lawsuits and will fight to secure any compensation you may be entitled to including:
- Long-term disability.
- Past and future loss of wages.
- Past and future medical bills.
- Long-term expenses.
- Home healthcare.
- Loss of companionship and/or loss of enjoyment of life.
- Pain and suffering.
- Burial expenses.
You should contact the medical malpractice lawyers at Lopez McHugh without delay because every state has deadlines for when compensation may be pursued. We will thoroughly investigate your case and advise you of the merits and challenges involved. If we agree to accept your case we will work on a contingent fee basis, which means that we get paid for our services only if there is a recovery by way of settlement or verdict.