According to the National Cancer Institute, nearly 40% of men and women will be diagnosed with some type of cancer in their life. There is no denying that cancer has a major impact on people’s lives, and the alarming prevalence of this disease is only made worse by the fact that cancer is one of the most commonly misdiagnosed diseases in the medical field. As recent studies have shown, early detection is crucial for cancer patients to successfully combat the disease. As such, a misdiagnosis can greatly decrease a patient’s chance for survival as precious time is lost while the disease goes undetected. In cases like these, a patient may be able to file a medical malpractice claim. In this post, we’ll go over how misdiagnosis occurs and when it constitutes medical malpractice.
If you or a loved one has suffered from health problems that could have been prevented through a correct and timely cancer diagnosis, reach out to our medical malpractice attorneys at Novo Law Firm PC. We have 20 years of experience in handling medical malpractice cases. We’ll go over your claim and determine the best course of action for your particular case.
How cancer gets misdiagnosed
Although cancer is one of the most widespread diseases, it is misdiagnosed all too often. A part of this is due to the fact that many cancers share symptoms with other illnesses. For example, a patient with lung cancer might display symptoms such as coughing, shortness of breath, or wheezing—which are also symptoms of common respiratory problems. Consequently, they may be misdiagnosed with asthma, bronchitis, or another respiratory condition instead of lung cancer.
The nature of some cancers can also make them difficult to diagnose. Certain types of cancers do not manifest themselves until later stages. For example, a patient with ovarian cancer will usually exhibit no symptoms until the disease has progressed to stage III or IV. Without any indication of a need for a cancer screening, doctors have no way of knowing that the disease is present in a patient.
Another reason cancer is misdiagnosed is simply that tests can be misinterpreted by physicians or pathologists. Determining whether a patient’s biopsy sample is cancerous or not requires extensive experience and an understanding of the particular type of cancer the patient is being screened for.
When misdiagnosis is considered medical malpractice
While a physician’s error can lead to a misdiagnosis for cancer patients, it should be noted that a misdiagnosis on its own doesn’t necessarily warrant a medical malpractice suit. Medical malpractice occurs when a physician neglects or deviates from the standard of care procedures for their profession which can then lead to a misdiagnosis and the subsequent harm of a patient. The standard of care for doctors is formed through a network of physicians, medical researchers, and government entities as a means of establishing an agreed upon level of care doctors are required to provide to their patients. Medical professionals are legally bound to the standard of care within their specialty. As such, any physician who fails to follow this standard in the diagnosis of a patient can face legal action. The following are just some instances where a misdiagnosis would likely lead to a medical malpractice claim as they show a neglect for the standard of care:
-Failure to take patient symptoms seriously
-Failure to identify certain symptoms as possible indicators of cancer
-Failure to order proper cancer screenings
-Failure to accurately read tests results
-Failure to provide a referral to a cancer specialist
A timely diagnosis can make a pronounced difference in a patient’s treatment and prognosis as survival is often contingent on early detection. Failing to make an accurate diagnosis means possibly losing a crucial window of opportunity to stop cancer from spreading to other parts of the body. A misdiagnosis of cancer that is actually not present is equally dangerous. A patient may undergo aggressive and unnecessary medical treatments such as radiation or chemotherapy that can have severe and lasting physical effects.
If you or someone you love has gone through a cancer misdiagnosis, you may be thoroughly distressed by the news and suffering from the illness itself. This is the time when you need to reach out to us at Novo Law Firm PC. You deserve a compassionate, supportive team that will ensure that your rights as a patient are protected and that the injuries you have sustained are fully compensated.