The key to fighting cancer is early diagnosis and treatment. Unfortunately, any misdiagnosis as to presence or type of cancer can rob a patient of their opportunity to obtain essential treatment and lower their chance of a cure or survival.
If you or a loved one received a cancer misdiagnosis, you may be entitled to significant compensation, such as for past and future medical costs along with unnecessary pain and suffering. However, not every diagnostic error is due to medical negligence, so it is important to have an experienced medical malpractice lawyer review your case. At Corsiglia, McMahon & Allard, L.L.P., we have extensive experience handling medical malpractice cases, including cancer misdiagnosis. Contact our law firm to discuss your cancer misdiagnosis and the potential for a legal claim.Early Diagnosis of Cancer is Critical
There were more than 1.7 million new diagnoses of cancer in the United States in 2018. Of these, more than 600,000 are expected to be fatal. Some of the most common types of cancer include the following:
- Breast cancer
- Lung and bronchus cancer
- Prostate cancer
- Colorectal cancer
- Skin cancer
- Bladder cancer
- Non-Hodgkin lymphoma
- Kidney and renal cancer
- Endometrial cancer
- Pancreatic cancer
- Thyroid cancer
- Liver cancer
- Cancer of the esophagus
- Cervical cancer
Early detection is essential for many types of cancers. Screening for cancers is one way to detect them before a patient even shows symptoms. This is true for common types of cancer, when a patient has a family history, or when a patient’s history indicates carcinogen exposure. For example, a patient may not have a family history but may have exposure to tobacco smoke, asbestos, or another known cause of cancer. A doctor can thoroughly question patients and review medical records to learn when cancer could be a potential issue.
When a patient does show potential cancer symptoms, a doctor should consider diagnostic tests such as blood tests, urine samples, or biopsies. Blood and urine tests may not be enough to make a complete diagnosis, but they can indicate whether further tests, procedures, or follow-ups with a specialist are needed. In addition, properly reading and understanding test results is as important as knowing which diagnostic tests to order to begin with.What are the Typical Causes of Cancer Misdiagnosis?
There is little room for error when a doctor suspects that their patient may have cancer. Swift and decisive action must be taken. Any failure to do so can prove fatal. Cancer misdiagnosis cases often arise from a medical professional’s failure to do any of the following:
- Perform a thorough physical exam or review patient records
- Recognize symptoms of different types of cancers
- Correctly determine when a patient needs a specific type of diagnostic test, such as a mammogram
- Properly interpret test results such as from x-rays, pap smears, CT scans, or blood draws
- Identify lesions on a person’s skin as malignant
- Correctly identify a specific type of cancer
- Send a patient to a specialist for a follow-up
- Follow up with a patient regarding treatment
- Switch a client to a different treatment when their current treatment is not working
It is important to know that a doctor may not be the only at-fault party in a failure to diagnose cancer lawsuit. For example, a pathologist or hospital may be at fault if the lab or an x-ray tech committed an error during a diagnostic test or failed to follow the doctor’s instructions correctly. If a failure to accurately diagnose cancer has cost you precious time with a loved one, you may be able to pursue legal action for the harm you have endured.Cancer Misdiagnosis Results in Incorrect Treatments
Unfortunately, cancer misdiagnosis is an ongoing problem. One cancer misdiagnosis study by The Johns Hopkins Hospital reviewed tissue samples biopsied from 6,000 patients across the U.S. Researchers found that one out of every 71 patients was misdiagnosed. In addition, one out of five cancers was misidentified as the wrong type.
In another study, researchers reviewed the records of patients sent to the hospital for cancer treatment following a biopsy. Pathologists found 86 diagnostic errors resulting in significant changes, such as:
- 93 percent of patients received a new treatment plan
- 71 percent had an improved prognosis
- 23 percent had benign instead of cancerous tumors
- 5 percent had cancer instead of benign tumors
In many of these cases, the original pathologists identified the wrong type of cancer, causing the patient to be treated incorrectly. These findings are important because they show how many patients are receiving no treatment, treatment when they do not need it, or the wrong treatment.How Misdiagnosis Causes Injuries
When a patient receives the wrong cancer diagnosis and the wrong treatment, it can cause serious harm. For example, a breast cancer patient who is diagnosed with non-invasive ductal carcinoma in situ (DCIS) may only have surgery to remove a lump. If this is a misdiagnosis and the patient has invasive breast cancer, it could spread without treatment and become serious before doctors realize the mistake.
On the other hand, a patient who is diagnosed with invasive cancer might be treated with extensive radiation and chemotherapy. These aggressive treatments can have significant, painful, and life-long side effects. If the cancer was correctly diagnosed as non-invasive to begin with, these harmful treatments may have been completely unnecessary.
By treating the wrong type of cancer or using the wrong treatment methods, you may be left with many long term injuries that may not have occurred with the correct treatment. Some long term side effects of cancer treatments include the following:
- Problems from surgery, including phantom limb pain or infections
- Lymphedema swelling and pain
- Heart problems such as heart disease, congestive heart failure, or arrhythmia
- High blood pressure
- Lung damage including inflammation or difficulty breathing
- Hormone problems such as menopause, infertility, or thyroid problems
- Osteoporosis or joint or muscle problems
- Hearing loss, dental problems, or cataracts
- Increased risk of stroke
- Nerve damage
- Cognitive problems including memory, learning, and concentration issues
- Digestive issues
- Depression, anxiety, and emotional problems
- Fatigue or sleep problems
- Secondary cancers such as acute leukemia or myelodysplastic syndrome
Cancer misdiagnosis cases can sometimes be difficult to bring because it must be demonstrated that the patient’s quality of life, lifespan, or ability to be treated was directly impacted by doctor negligence. From breast cancer misdiagnosis to brain tumor misdiagnosis, our attorneys have the legal experience to handle these complex malpractice claims. Working with top medical experts, we help examine the facts of your illness and treatment to see whether you may be able to hold a doctor accountable for medical injuries.Seek Legal Guidance from Dedicated Attorneys in San Jose, California
At Corsiglia, McMahon & Allard, we understand the pain and frustration that your cancer misdiagnosis has caused you and your family. We are here to help. Our cases are taken on a contingency basis— you do not pay unless we recover a settlement or verdict for you. Contact us online or call (408) 289-1417 today to schedule a complimentary consultation. We serve clients in San Jose along with the San Francisco Bay Area counties of San Mateo, Santa Clara, Monterey, Contra Costa, and Alameda.