How Often is Cancer Misdiagnosed?
August 21, 2022
Cancer is a serious diagnosis for anyone to receive. Thanks to advanced and evolving technology, cancer can be a curable disease, especially when it is detected early and properly treated. Doctors should be able to accurately diagnose such a critical disease to provide patients with immediate treatment and potentially extend their life. Unfortunately, cancer diagnoses are often missed or delayed for a variety of reasons, leaving patients to suffer severe consequences.
Determining rates of cancer misdiagnosis can be difficult, considering a doctor might miss the signs or a patient’s symptoms for a few days, months, or even years. Cancer misdiagnosis can go unreported or not even documented in a patient’s medical file. However, recent studies show that a cancer misdiagnosis can occur in more than 10 percent of diagnoses. Some estimates put rates as high as 20 percent, with misdiagnosis ranking among the highest forms of medical malpractice. Cancer misdiagnosis is still surprisingly common and harms thousands of patients each year.
A delayed diagnosis or misdiagnosis can limit the effectiveness of treatment, cause the patient’s health to rapidly deteriorate, cost the patient time and money, or lead to unnecessary pain and suffering and sometimes death. A patient’s cancer misdiagnosis can be the direct result of negligence from a health care provider. These patients have the right to seek compensation for their physical and emotional trauma through a medical malpractice claim.
What Is a Misdiagnosis?
A misdiagnosis occurs when a health care provider, such as a doctor, nurse, dentist, or hospital, gives a patient a diagnosis based on symptoms and tests that ends up being incorrect. A cancer misdiagnosis can be especially detrimental because it may delay essential treatment, worsen the illness, increase medical expenses, extend emotional pain for both a patient and their loved ones, and even cause death.
The earlier a cancer diagnosis is reached, the greater the likelihood for survival. The risk with cancer is that if it is not caught in the early stages, it can spread to other parts of the body, making treatment more challenging and the patient vulnerable to complications, including death.
According to the World Health Organization (WHO), there are two main components to the early detection of cancer:
- Screenings: This involves tests to identify if the problem a patient experiencing is related to cancer, such as mammograms for breast cancer, Pap smears for cervical cancer, or simple blood tests.
- Education: Recognizing the warning signs of cancer, including lumps, unhealed sores, abnormal bleeding, stomach issues, and chronic hoarseness. It is important for doctors to stay aware of these signs, and for patients experiencing any of them to inform their doctors immediately.
A failure on the part of a health care provider to thoroughly investigate symptoms, order proper testing, or refer a patient to an oncologist, can have a significant impact on a patient’s health and prognosis. If a doctor misses the chance to diagnose cancer early through testing and screening, it could be a case of medical malpractice.
What Are Reasons Cancer Can Be Misdiagnosed?
Cancer can be misdiagnosed or accidentally missed by health providers in a number of ways. The most common reasons that cancer is misdiagnosed include:
- Failure to take a detailed medical history.
- Failure to perform a complete and thorough examination.
- Failure to recognize early warning signs and symptoms.
- Failure to recommend or offer cancer screening.
- Failure to recommend financially available tests.
- Improper interpretation of radiological or laboratory testing.
- Failure to refer to oncologists or cancer specialists.
- Failure to properly follow up or communicate with patients.
- Communication errors between doctors and medical facilities.
Due to its ability to spread throughout the body, symptoms of cancer widely vary. Cancer diagnosis is largely based on lab tests, such as biopsies and blood analyses, in addition to a patient’s symptoms. It is crucial that every step in a cancer patient’s treatment be made in a timely and appropriate manner.
What Are Different Types of Cancer Screenings and Tests?
The first line of defense against cancer is regular screenings and proper testing that health care providers perform or recommend. Doctors should provide the appropriate tests for different cancers, administered based on a patient’s risk factors. These include the patient’s age, gender, and family medical history.
There are many types of tests and screenings commonly used to detect cancer, including:
- Prostate exam
- Pap smear
- CAT scan
- PET scan
What Damages Can I Receive After a Cancer Misdiagnosis?
The losses a misdiagnosed cancer patient may experience can be catastrophic. A cancer misdiagnosis can inflict life-changing physical and emotional injury. The amount that a party can expect to receive in a medical malpractice lawsuit involving misdiagnosis depends on each individual case. Valid cancer misdiagnosis claims tend to result in particularly large settlements and jury verdicts.
Damages an injured party can seek in a cancer misdiagnosis malpractice claim include:
- Medical expenses
- Lost wages
- Pain and suffering
- Rehabilitation and therapy
Our Philadelphia medical malpractice lawyers at Galfand Berger LLP are experienced in handling misdiagnosis and failure-to-diagnose cases:
- Our firm secured a settlement of $800,000 on behalf of our client. Our client’s family member died as a result of his doctor failing to diagnose a heart problem. The doctor told the patient that he was suffering from indigestion, rather than recognizing the signs of an impending heart attack. Shortly thereafter, the patient died from a heart attack as the result of his doctor’s failure to diagnose. We secured a $800,000 settlement on behalf of our client, the family of the deceased.
Philadelphia Medical Malpractice Lawyers at Galfand Berger LLP Fight for Clients Who Have Experienced Cancer Misdiagnosis
If you believe that medical negligence has contributed to the development of your cancer, do not hesitate to contact one of our Philadelphia medical malpractice lawyers at Galfand Berger LLP. We can assist with your medical malpractice claim based on misdiagnosis. For a free consultation, call us at 800-222-USWA (8792) or contact us online. Located in Philadelphia, Bethlehem, Lancaster, and Reading, Pennsylvania, we serve clients throughout New Jersey and Pennsylvania, including Allentown and Harrisburg.