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Cancer Misdiagnosis: Getting Your Life Back

Patient in a DiagnosisA cancer diagnosis can be world-shattering. It affects everything in your life, and changes relationships and situations in ways that may never be anticipated. However, one of the few things that can be just as traumatic as a cancer diagnosis is finding out that you have been misdiagnosed. The knowledge of such an egregious mistake on the part of a medical professional can make you doubt everything.

Misdiagnosis as Malpractice

While no medical professional is perfect, the reported rates of misdiagnosis in America rises routinely each year. A study from the National Center for Policy Analysis states that misdiagnosis rates are between 10 percent and 20 percent for the general populace on average, and that the true numbers are likely even higher, given the number of incorrect diagnoses that are not reported or discovered. This also accounts not only for wrong diagnoses; late diagnoses can also qualify as misdiagnosis if the condition ought to have been discovered before it was.

Malpractice can tie into the latter most specifically - it is defined as a failure to uphold the prevailing standard of care by a medical professional in treatment of a patient. While the “prevailing standard of care” is subjective, the standard for judging it is not. For example, a country hospital may have slightly substandard equipment compared to a big-city medical center. But at either location, if a patient is diagnosed with one disease when their symptoms indicate another, or when a test that could cement a diagnosis is not performed for one reason or another, that is substandard care.

Types of Cancer Misdiagnosis

Cancer misdiagnosis is particularly harmful to a patient, given the severe nature of cancer as a disease. However, there are some misconceptions about what exactly constitutes a misdiagnosis and what constitutes simple mistake. Not every medical error is actionable, and it is best to know the difference so you can avoid wasting time trying to mount an unwinnable case.

The crux of the matter can generally come down to one question: did the medical professional’s error cause avoidable harm to the patient? If so, it is much more likely to be classed as malpractice. The most common situations in which this must be addressed include:

  • Faulty tests to detect cancer, such as magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scans and biopsies. In this type of scenario, liability may rest with the manufacturer of equipment used in the test, or with the professional administering it. Whether the test provides a false positive or a false negative, it is plausible that this could cause serious harm to a patient. For example, it is not unheard of for women to undergo hysterectomies to prevent the spread of uterine or endometrial cancer, only to later discover they never had cancer;
  • Delayed diagnosis. A cancer diagnosis not immediately provided to a patient as soon as possible may slow or even completely impede remission or excision; and
  • Misstating or understating the progression of cancer. While this is less likely to cause avoidable harm to a patient, it still may cause harm as a patient may believe they have far longer than they actually do to deal with the disease.

Many people believe, especially in the case of a false positive diagnosis, that there is no reason to bring suit because they suffered no tangible harm - however, personal injury and medical malpractice causes of action do exist for things like pain and suffering and emotional trauma. In California, though, damages for these intangible harms are capped at $250,000.

A Malpractice Attorney Can Help

If you were ever wrongly diagnosed with cancer, you may have recourse. The experienced San Jose medical malpractice attorneys at Corsiglia, McMahon & Allard, L.L.P. understand the law surrounding these matters, but we also understand the fear and trauma you have gone through. We will work with you every step of the way to give you the best possible chance to receive compensation for your ordeal. Contact us today for a free consultation. We serve San Jose, the Bay Area, and the counties of Santa Clara, San Mateo, San Benito, Alameda and Monterey.

Client Reviews
My experience with Attorney Brad Corsiglia during my recent medical malpractice case was nothing short of amazing given the very stressful circumstances. I was fortunate to find Brad highly recommended from a mutual contact and from the very beginning of the process, Brad was truly engaged and knowledgeable in understanding my case and providing input on what avenues were available to me. Michelle M.