The Increased Risk of Harm due to Cancer Misdiagnosis

When it comes to cancer survival rates, early diagnosis and treatment are critical. If the patient is led down the wrong path through misdiagnosis, the treatment costs and chance of death are increased substantially. Treating cancer at a later stage calls for higher doses of chemotherapy and more radical radiation therapy. This intense level of treatment is far worse than treatment options for an earlier stage of cancer. It can also have wretched side effects that lead to a lessened quality of life for the patient.

Cancer misdiagnosis happens when a physician wrongly identifies cancer symptoms as another disease. Misdiagnosis also occurs if a physician decides to not test for cancer when signs of cancer are evident. Either type of cancer misdiagnosis can have tragic consequences.

Kinds of Misdiagnosis Claims

Here are some other regularly reported kinds of negligence made by doctors during misdiagnosed cancer cases.

  • Neglecting to order a biopsy or further tests
  • Not identifying an obvious lump during a breast exam
  • Misreading or incorrectly analyzing test results
  • Not recognizing common signs of cancer
  • Neglecting to follow up with the patient or the results of testing
  • Wrongly identifying a tumor as benign
  • Not ordering adequate tests, such as magnetic resonance images, CT scans and x-rays

Elevated Risk of Harm during Different Stages of Cancer

Cancer’s stages are related to the amount or the severity of a patient’s cancer when compared to the original tumor and how far it has spread throughout the body. A cancer misdiagnosis has different effects based on the cancer’s stage when the misdiagnosis was originally made. This is when compared to the cancer’s stage at the time it is properly diagnosed.

Mammograms, x-rays, magnetic resonance images, CT scans and pathology allow physicians to detect cancer early and successfully treat it. When doctors do not diagnose cancer because they did not maintain an appropriate level of care, the cancer will be undetected, not diagnosed and untreated until it has time to grow and spread throughout the body, which requires more harsh treatment. If cancer increases to Stage 3 or 4, the delayed diagnosis may be cause for a valid medical malpractice claim.

The patient’s survival rate is greatly affected by the timely diagnosis and treatment of cancer. When they’re caught in an early stage, certain cancers can be eliminated quickly. Cancers that usually react well to early attention are colorectal (colon) cancer, cervical cancer, skin cancer, breast cancer, prostate cancer, testicular cancer, lung cancer, kidney cancer and ovarian cancer.

The five-year survival rate for breast cancer patients who were diagnosed during Stage 1 is 100 percent. Based on statistics supplied by the American College of Surgeons National Cancer Data Base, when breast cancer is detected during Stage 4, the survival rate is only 20 percent. The cancer’s stage depends on the tumor’s size, if it has spread to the lymph nodes or if it has spread to distant organs, such as the lungs or bones. According to the ANZ Journal of Surgery, the five-year survival rate for Stage 1 colon cancer is 93 percent, but it declines by 34 percent at Stage 3.

Therefore, medical malpractice lawyers are forced to use typical growth rates and statistical models to extrapolate backwards to estimate the cancer’s stage when it was misdiagnosed. That stage is compared to the stage at which it was detected. Patients who were misdiagnosed can receive compensation for the increased risk they were subjected to due to the delayed diagnosis or medical mistake. They’re also entitled to compensation for medical expenses, loss of normal life, pain and suffering as a result of the physician’s negligence.