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|Medical Malpractice
Last Updated: August 9, 2021

Cancer is one of the saddest and most unfortunate topics to discuss. Many people have either personally lost someone close to them, or know of someone that has experienced this terrible illness. What many people are not aware of is how often cancer is misdiagnosed.

Cancer misdiagnosis may include cases where symptoms are mistaken for another illness, or  cases where a patient is incorrectly diagnosed with cancer altogether. Unfortunately, In both of these circumstances, the individual is subjected to a large amount of pain and suffering. What’s more unfortunate is that often times the situation may have had a different outcome with a correct diagnosis.

This article discusses details on cancer misdiagnosis including how often this occurs, how it occurs, and what you should do if you suspect that you or a loved one are a victim.

Types of Cancer Misdiagnosis

Consent form for cancer treatment titled informed consent for chemotherapyThere are a wide variety of possible scenarios with misdiagnosed cancer. An incorrect evaluation may indicate a patient has cancer when that individual does not have the dreaded disease. Another problem occurs if there is an incorrect diagnosis regarding the type or location of cancer. The third scenario involves completely missing a diagnosis.

Incorrect diagnosis, delayed or inaccurate diagnosis, and a complete failure to diagnose cancer all cause harm to patients and their families and may be grounds for a medical malpractice lawsuit.

We go into further details on these three occurrences below:

Incorrectly Diagnosed With Cancer – This first scenario leads to unnecessary suffering, stress, and medical bills. Imagine hearing you have cancer, going through treatment and later finding out you never had the disease. If the cancer misdiagnosis resulted in surgery, chemotherapy, or radiation treatments contact an experienced attorney immediately. Of course, it’s a relief to know you are cancer free; however, medical negligence is unacceptable.

Delayed Cancer Diagnosis – The second type of misdiagnosis occurs when a doctor or pathologist misidentifies the type or location of cancer. An incorrect diagnosis may lead to ineffective treatment and severely injure, or prematurely kill a patient. Proper cancer care depends on an accurate diagnosis and sufficient, appropriate testing. In other words, proper biopsies and imaging tests must be performed before treatment begins to verify suspected malignancies. 

Missed Cancer Diagnosis – The third scenario happens when a doctor misses a cancer diagnosis through negligence. For example, if a neurologist treats a patient with horrible headaches for years and never orders a CAT scan or MRI of the brain, it may present a real problem. If this patient has a brain tumor that continues to grow, then the patient’s condition will deteriorate. Unfortunately, it may be too late to operate by the time the patient exhibits additional symptoms. If the tumor is malignant, cancer may spread and the consequences become fatal. So, failure to recognize cancer symptoms and order appropriate tests results in a probable cancer misdiagnosis lawsuit.

Statute of Limitations

The Florida statute of limitations is 2 years for misdiagnosis lawsuits. In other words, you have 2 years from the time of the misdiagnosis, or from the time you discovered the misdiagnosis to file a lawsuit. A credible lawsuit must show medical negligence. Simply put, the medical professional must have acted carelessly and not in the same manner as other medical professionals. Examples of medical negligence include:

  • Failure to administer appropriate and adequate testing
  • Failure to properly interpret test results
  • Failure to refer patient to oncologist
  • Failure to pursue additional testing when medically necessary
  • Administering cancer drugs or treatments to patients without cancer
  • Ignoring medical recommendations from specialists
  • Ignoring lab results

Patients that suspect there was medical negligence involved in a cancer diagnosis should contact an experienced attorney for medical malpractice and cancer misdiagnosis cases immediately to explore legal options.

How Often is Cancer Misdiagnosed

Far too often! The American Journal of Medicine reports that cancer misdiagnosis rates occur in approximately 15% of new cancer diagnosis. Sadly, an undiagnosed cancer may quickly spread and cause tremendous complications and possible death. Since many cancers share symptoms of various conditions and diseases it’s important that physicians order appropriate tests to rule out cancer as soon as possible.  So, not every ache or pain indicates cancer; but, a vigilant doctor orders testing when necessary.

Types of Cancer

Numerous types of cancer may be misdiagnosed because cancer symptoms mimic various diseases and conditions. For example, breast cancer may be diagnosed as fibrocystic disease. A breast lump may be dismissed as a noncancerous cyst. Only a mammogram and a biopsy will assist doctors in ruling out breast cancer if a woman (or man) has symptoms of breast cancer. Lung cancer may also be missed if chest X-rays are not ordered when a patient complains of frequent respiratory infections, pain while breathing, fatigue, weight loss, or cough. Numerous other misdiagnosed cancers include: pancreatic, cervical, blood, brain, prostate, skin, and colon/colorectal cancers. Of course, doctors are not responsible for every horrible consequence of a cancer diagnosis. Often even with an accurate diagnosis cancer spreads to other areas. The key question is did my doctor order appropriate tests based on my symptoms? So, if a physician failed to act as in a reasonable way and a patient was harmed as a result; seek legal advice.

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