One of the most important aspects of treating a medical condition is catching the condition early and treating it promptly. This is especially true in cancer treatment, where catching cancer in the early stages with proper screening and testing can be the biggest key to successfully treating cancer. If you or a loved one suffered a delayed diagnosis because of medical negligence, you might be entitled to file a medical malpractice claim against that medical professional.
For a free medical malpractice consultation, contact Prosper Shaked Accident Injury Attorneys PA today. To set up your free case evaluation with Prosper Shaked, call our law firm today by dialing (305) 694-2676.
Common Types of Cancer that are Misdiagnosed and that Doctors Fail to Diagnose
According to the National Cancer Institute, cancer is a group of related diseases that are caused by an uncontrollable division of cells in the body. Cancer can begin anywhere in the body and can spread (metastasize) to other parts of the body. There are many different reasons why a person may develop cancer, including certain risk factors such as diet, alcohol or drug use, environmental exposures, infection, or genetic disorders, but ultimately, cancer is caused by a change in the DNA within cells. There are some gene mutations that people are born with, while other gene mutations may occur at any point in a person’s life. Sadly, cancer is incredibly prevalent and affects many people all over the world. According to the World Health Organization, cancer is the second leading cause of death globally, accounting for approximately 10 million deaths per year worldwide.
Cancer staging is crucial because it helps determine the appropriate course of treatment for a cancer patient and helps predict whether the disease has spread and where it has spread to. There are a few different methods for staging cancer. The TNM staging system is the most widely used system to stage cancer, but there are other types of staging systems for blood cancers as well as brain and spinal cord tumors. The TNM staging system includes the following:
T – T refers to the primary tumor
N – N refers to the numbers of lymph nodes involved
M – M refers to whether or not the cancer has metastasized to another part of the body
While many cancers are treatable if diagnosed and treated promptly, there are times when patients experience a delay in diagnosis, leading to a worsened prognosis or even death. Misdiagnosis of cancer should never occur, and when it does, it is often due to medical negligence.
The most commonly misdiagnosed cancers include the following:
Breast cancer can begin anywhere in the breast but most commonly start in the lobules or ducts of the breast. The two most common types of breast cancer include invasive lobular carcinoma and invasive ductal carcinoma. Breast cancer is very prevalent, especially amongst women. In 2020, there were an estimated 276,480 people diagnosed with breast cancer, with an estimated 42,170 people dying from the disease in just 2020. While breast cancer carries an overall survival rate of 90%, it greatly depends on the type of cancer, any genetic mutations a person may have, the overall health of the patient, and how timely the patient is diagnosed and treated.
While breast cancer may be prevalent, it is one of a few types of cancer in which screening can save lives. The most common method for cancer screening is the use of a mammogram. All women are encouraged to begin getting mammograms every two years at the age of 50. However, women with a pre-existing risk factor may start having mammograms before the age of 50. Other methods of screening include MRI, clinical breast exam, or self breast examination. Routine screening can truly save lives as the cancer can be detected at a very early stage before it has spread to other areas in the body.
One reason for possible metastatic disease or spread of cancer at diagnosis is breast cancer misdiagnosis. People with breast cancer may be diagnosed with something benign, such as a benign cyst, breast inflammation, or even fibrocystic breast disease. Misdiagnosis can happen for a variety of reasons, such as a pathologist misinterpreting a biopsy report, a physician failing to order a biopsy in the presence of an abnormal screening exam, or a mixing up of patient reports, leading to another patient receiving a breast cancer diagnosis instead of the patient who actually has breast cancer. Whatever the cause may be, misdiagnosis can have deadly consequences considering that 90% of breast cancer patients survive when it is caught early and treated aggressively. The failure to do so could lead to a medical malpractice case.
Colorectal cancer refers to cancer that arises in the colon or the rectum. Colorectal cancer can originate from polyps within the colon, which can, over time, mutate into cancerous tumors. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, colorectal cancer is the third leading cause of cancer-related deaths in the United States. Each year there are approximately 10,000 cases of colorectal cancer in Florida alone.
While colorectal cancer can be quite curable, a delay in diagnosis can be detrimental to the overall prognosis. Screening for colorectal cancer is vital and can literally be the difference between life and death. Modalities for colorectal screening include the following:
- Fecal occult blood test (FOB)
- DNA stool test
- Virtual colonoscopy
Colonoscopies look for any abnormal polyps or growths. In contrast, other tests such as fecal occult blood look for a microscopic presence of blood in the stool, which can be indicative of colorectal cancer or of other conditions. People who are at average risk for colorectal cancer should begin colorectal screening examinations at the age of 45, while people with known risk factors should begin having colonoscopies at a younger age.
Colorectal cancer is sadly commonly misdiagnosed or missed entirely. Colorectal cancer may be missed due to where the polyp or cancerous tumor may be located (i.e., the ascending colon), scarring within the colon, gender (male), and people who have previously had polyps identified on colonoscopy are at risk for colorectal cancer being missed on colonoscopy.
Lung Cancer is a commonly diagnosed cancer in the United States, with approximately 17,068 cases reported in 2017 in Florida alone. As the name suggests, lung cancer arises in the lungs but can spread to other areas of the body, such as the brain, liver, and bones. The two most common types of lung cancer include small cell lung cancer and non-small cell lung cancer, with small cell lung cancer typically acting more aggressively.
The overall prognosis for patients with lung cancer tends to vary depending on the type of lung cancer and whether it has spread. People diagnosed with NSCLC have a 63% survival rate if it is found before it has spread. In comparison, people diagnosed with SCLC have only a 27% chance for survival if the cancer is localized at diagnosis, making early diagnosis vital.
This highlights the importance of timely identifying and diagnosing lung cancer. A healthcare provider who fails to diagnose lung cancer timely could be handing out a death sentence. Lung cancer can be missed for a variety of reasons. While there are certain screening recommendations for people who are at risk (i.e. smokers), lung cancer is not a cancer that is routinely screened for. However, there are times when lung cancer may be missed on imaging for a variety of reasons, including the following:
- Failure to identify the presence of lung cancer on CT scan or other imaging modalities
- Observer error, meaning the radiologist reviews the scan but feels that the tumor or lung nodules are something benign when they are in fact, malignant
- Scanning errors, leading to the missed presence of a tumor
- Lack of training – novice radiologists, are more likely to miss the presence of cancer on imaging
- “Loss of interest” – this refers to radiologists who may identify other abnormalities (i.e., pleural effusion), which may therefore lead them to miss a tumor as they believe they have already identified the abnormality
- Tumor characteristics – specific tumor characteristics may make it more challenging to identify the presence of lung cancer on imaging
Other Types of Cancers Commonly Misdiagnosed
There are many different types of cancers, including the types mentioned above. As mentioned, early detection is critical, and a misdiagnosis can be the difference between life and death. While breast, colorectal, and lung cancers are sadly misdiagnosed, there are many other types of cancers that are commonly misdiagnosed, including the following:
- Prostate cancer
- Ovarian cancer
- Cervical cancer
- Pancreatic cancer
- All types of skin cancers, and
- Other types of cancers that could have been timely diagnosed and treated with high efficacy.
Damages for Delayed or Failed Cancer Diagnosis
When you have cancer, one of the biggest indicators of your prognosis will be how early the cancer was caught. Stage I cancer is far easier to treat, and early, aggressive treatment commonly results in complete remission for many forms of cancer. At the far opposite extreme, Stage IV cancer is the most developed form of cancer, with the cancer often spreading to additional body systems and organs, metastasizing into the blood, and spreading further. This is the most difficult cancer to treat, and many diagnoses of Stage IV cancer are too advanced to treat successfully.
Because cancer is best treated early, any delay in diagnosis can lead to the cancer becoming far worse, the treatment becoming far more taxing, and the patient’s projected quality of life decreasing. If your cancer became more advanced and continued to grow and spread because your doctor failed to diagnose you, that doctor may have breached the standard of care and may be responsible for the increased severity and increased treatment needs.
After a delay in diagnosis or a complete failure to diagnose, you may seek a second opinion. Other patients may take a clean bill of health or an alternative misdiagnosis as fact and fail to look further into their health condition, potentially passing away because of the doctor’s misdiagnosis. In any case, this could result in any of the following damages, which the doctor who failed to diagnose you should be liable for:
- Additional surgeries and biopsies
- Potentially disfiguring issue removal to prevent cancer spread (e.g., a double mastectomy or removal of a testicle)
- Additional chemotherapy, radiation therapy, or other cancer treatment
- Worsened side-effects from more aggressive treatment needs
- Increased medical care, including hospitalization and home-care costs
- Increased pain, discomfort, nausea, and other sufferings
- Additional time off work and missed wages
- Increased medical expenses
- Reduced life expectancy
- Wrongful death
Proving Delayed Diagnosis or Misdiagnosis in Cancer Cases
To get the compensation you deserve for your doctor’s errors and mistakes, you must prove that the delay in diagnosis, misdiagnosis, or failure to diagnose was an error that a reasonable physician should not have made. Each doctor is responsible for their medical treatment, and any treatment that falls below the acceptable standards of care is considered negligent. When a doctor commits this kind of negligence, you may be entitled to sue them in court to seek damages for the personal injury, but you must first prove their error was unreasonable.
Cancer can be hard to diagnose in many cases. Cancer’s effects are not always obvious, especially in the early stages, where any cancer in the body might be small or nearly undetectable. However, your doctor should have sophisticated tools for testing and screening available.
Especially if you have a family history of cancer or fall into other risk categories, your doctor should recommend proper screening and testing to detect cancer early, and failing to do so could be negligent. Many minimally invasive testing options are available, such as mammograms, pap smears, prostate exams, colorectal exams, and other standard cancer screenings. If you are exceptionally high risk, it may be negligent for your doctor not to use these screening options.
If you go to your doctor with complaints of pain, discomfort, dizziness, or other odd symptoms, your doctor may be reasonably required to turn to cancer screening or testing. Failing to order reasonable testing to diagnose cancer might be considered negligence, and failing to take these complaints seriously may also be completely unacceptable. If your doctor is confronted with obvious cancer symptoms but still makes no efforts to either test for cancer or refer you to an oncologist (cancer specialist), they have failed you.
Working with another physician or medical expert is often required to help prove that the doctor’s diagnosis or lack thereof was an error.
Many patients do not discover their cancer until they seek a second opinion, especially if their first doctor brushed aside their symptoms or misdiagnosed them with a minor condition. Once they seek a second opinion, they may have enough information to prove their other physician’s errors. If you discover you have cancer after being given an alternate diagnosis, talk to a medical malpractice attorney right away to help preserve your medical negligence case.
Call Our Miami Cancer Misdiagnosis Lawyer for a Free Consultation
If you or a loved one developed cancer, and your doctor’s misdiagnosis, delayed diagnosis, or failure to diagnose led to lost opportunities, increased treatment needs, increased cancer severity, or death, contact an experienced cancer misdiagnosis lawyer immediately. We represent cancer misdiagnosis victims throughout the State of Florida. For your free legal consultation, call us today at (305) 694-2676 for a free consultation with a medical malpractice lawyer.