Cancer Misdiagnosis Lawsuits

Cancer misdiagnosis lawsuits are filed when physicians fail to order timely screenings, use outdated tools and procedures, or simply fail to diagnose cancer. These mistakes deprive patients of life-saving treatment options. A cancer misdiagnosis lawsuit can help offset medical & psychological treatment costs.

Receiving the wrong diagnosis can be extremely detrimental – especially with deadly diseases like cancer. Cancer misdiagnosis, and particularly a failure to diagnose cancer, can delay potentially life-saving treatments and lead to premature death, along with painful and debilitating side effects. People who receive a wrong cancer diagnosis, or whose cancer diagnosis comes later than it should have, may have recourse to seek compensation for treatments, lost income, and other expenses related to the missed or delayed diagnosis. Talk to a lawyer to discuss your eligibility for filing a medical malpractice lawsuit.

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What Is Cancer Misdiagnosis?

Misdiagnosis is a serious problem that can severely harm cancer patients. Misdiagnosis can come in one of several forms:

  • Failure to Diagnose Cancer: When a cancer should have been detected based on symptoms, common age-based tests, or readily available screening methods.
  • Wrong Diagnosis of Cancer: When someone is diagnosed with cancer that they do not actually have (also called a “false positive”).
  • Misclassified Cancer: When someone is diagnosed as having one type of cancer but actually has a different type of cancer.

Why Does Misdiagnosis of Cancer Occur?

Some estimates put the percentage of wrong cancer diagnosis cases as high as 20%, depending on the definition used. Given all of the diagnostic tools available to modern medicine – including imaging technology (X-rays, CT scans, PET scans, MRI scans), blood tests, minimally invasive surgical techniques, biopsies, etc. – how can it be possible to get a wrong diagnosis, or even miss the cancer altogether?

In some cases, the problem is one of interpretation. Patients may believe their symptoms will go away, or doctors may believe the symptoms are caused by another illness, condition or disease. Similarly, lab technicians who perform histological analysis on biopsied tissue may wrongly identify the type of cancer cell, since different cancers can look very similar to others.

Most Common Types of Misdiagnosed Cancers

Depending on the type of cancer, misdiagnosis could be negligent on the part of the doctor or other medical staff. For example, breast cancer and prostate cancer have clear age-based screening guidelines, and failing to order these common tests for a patient could be seen as a form of medical malpractice. However, doctors are less likely to be held liable for missing diagnosis of a cancer like mesothelioma, which is much rarer and requires an invasive biopsy.

Costs and Complications of Misdiagnosis

Failure to diagnose cancer accurately can lead to a number of health problems, including unnecessary side effects and complications. In turn, these health problems can lead to financial hardships for patients who received the incorrect diagnosis, as they pursue treatments that may be ineffective or even unnecessary. Patients deprived of life-saving treatments due to a doctor’s failure to diagnose cancer in a timely way are therefore entitled to significant monetary reparations to cover the cost of medical treatments, lost wages, and the pain and suffering associated with an untimely and avoidable death.

Patients and their families may be able to recover some of the costs related to their cancer misdiagnosis by filing a lawsuit. Some of the types of costs that can be awarded as part of a malpractice verdict include:

  • Economic damages like medical bills, lost income, cancer treatment costs, transportation to and from medical centers, and future expenses or losses resulting from your illness.
  • Noneconomic damages such as pain and suffering, disfigurement, disability, loss of consortium/companionship, and other costs that do not have a strict monetary value.

The exact types of damages you can receive varies from state to state. Speak with an experienced medical malpractice lawyer to understand your compensation eligibility.

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Cancer, Malpractice and Negligence

Negligence, a specific form of medical malpractice, occurs when the doctor’s conduct falls short of a standard of care. The standard of care can be defined by law, professional organizations, or common practice.

When it comes to cancer, there are some standards of care that apply to all cancers, while certain cancers may have additional standards based on available knowledge and early detection methods. For example, some cancers like breast cancer and colorectal cancer have age-based screening standards, which doctors should be aware of and make available to their patients.

Examples of Diagnostic Negligence

  • Failing to provide standard screening per national recommendations, such as routine colonoscopies for those age 50+.
  • Ignoring patient complaints and symptoms that align with a possible cancer diagnosis.
  • Failing to seek further testing for symptoms or abnormal cancer screening results.
  • Failure to refer a patient to an appropriate cancer specialist (like a gynecologic oncologist for suspected cervical cancer).
  • Failure to disclose, whether normal or abnormal, test results with the patient.
  • Failure to consider a patient’s previous diagnoses, medical history, or family history of cancer during diagnosis.

In the US healthcare system, primary care and family practice medical providers are almost always the first line of defense against delayed cancer diagnoses. Doctors, physician’s assistants and nurse practitioners are all professionally obligated to order the appropriate tests to diagnose underlying and potentially fatal conditions like cancer in a timely way. Medical providers must also stay up-to-date on national recommendations for cancer screening.

Legally speaking, a standard of care is often measured against the actions of a “reasonable person” in a similar position, meaning a doctor could be held accountable if other doctors would have reasonably been able to diagnose the cancer accurately. However, while medical professionals are expected to have a certain level of knowledge and experience related to the diseases they treat, not all doctors are necessarily assessed using the same standards. For example, an oncologist might be held to a higher standard of care with respect to undiagnosed cancer than a general practitioner or family doctor, because oncologists specialize in cancer care.

Age-Based Cancer Screening Guidelines

It is important to be aware of the screening guidelines for your age group and risk level. If you have a family history, genetic predisposition, or other high-risk factors for certain cancers, the guidelines generally recommend that you receive earlier screening than those who do not exhibit these factors.

Cancer Screening Recommendations by Age

Age Men Women
21 – 29
  • Colon Cancer (high risk)
  • Cervical Cancer
  • Breast Cancer (high risk)
  • Colon Cancer (high risk)
30 – 39
  • Colon Cancer (high risk)
  • Cervical Cancer
  • Breast Cancer (high risk)
  • Colon Cancer (high risk)
40 – 49
  • Colon Cancer (high risk)
  • Prostate Cancer (age 45 – sooner for high risk)
  • Cervical Cancer
  • Breast Cancer (age 45 – sooner if high risk or by choice)
  • Colon Cancer (high risk)
50 – 64
  • Colon Cancer
  • Prostate Cancer
  • Lung Cancer (55 based on smoking history)
  • Cervical Cancer
  • Breast Cancer
  • Colon Cancer
  • Lung Cancer (55 based on smoking history)
  • Colon Cancer
  • Prostate Cancer
  • Lung Cancer (55 based on smoking history)
  • Cervical Cancer (only if you have a history of cervical pre-cancer)
  • Breast Cancer
  • Colon Cancer
  • Lung Cancer (based on smoking history)
Source: American Cancer Society, Cancer Screening Guidelines by Age

Most people do not know that medical organizations publish strict guidelines like these, specifically designed to increase the likelihood that various forms of cancers are diagnosed early enough for life-saving treatments to be the most effective.

If you are a high-risk patient and your doctor failed to recommend or prescribe one of these screening tests, he or she may be considered negligent. Talk to a cancer misdiagnosis lawyer to assess your case and determine whether you may be able to file a lawsuit.

Can I Sue My Doctor for Misdiagnosis?

Some diagnostic errors are unavoidable, but in cases when a doctor should have been able to catch the cancer sooner, they could be held responsible for malpractice. The question becomes one of proving whether the doctor’s actions constituted negligence or some other form of medical malpractice.

Could the Misdiagnosis Have Been Prevented?

A medical malpractice lawyer will investigate the pertinent medical history leading up to the delayed cancer diagnosis to determine the viability of your lawsuit.

To successfully sue a doctor for medical malpractice, courts generally require plaintiffs (the ones filing the lawsuit) to establish four conditions:

  • The doctor or medical professional had a legal duty of care, such as by providing screening or testing services.
  • The doctor failed to meet the standard of care.
  • That failure resulted in personal injury to the patient, such as a delayed cancer diagnosis or a worse prognosis due to an inaccurate diagnosis.
  • Damages related to the injury can be assessed and redressed by the legal system.

Upon accepting your case, your attorney will help you understand what evidence is required and help you gather the materials needed to prove your case. This could include everything from medical records, bills, insurance statements, or even emails and other communications to and from your health care providers. It also includes pulling together health-related evidence, such as relevant medical literature, and depositions or testimony from witnesses, such as expert pathologists who can explain standards of care to a jury. By examining this information, medical malpractice lawyers can predict with high accuracy whether or not a lawsuit will be successful.

Did your doctor ignore your symptoms? Talk with legal expert to understand your legal rights

Cancer Misdiagnosis Lawsuit Settlements

While some cancer misdiagnosis lawsuits go to trial and receive a verdict, in many cases defendants may offer a settlement in return for a dismissal of the claims against them. While such settlements can benefit the plaintiffs by providing much-needed money sooner than waiting for the completion of a trial, a lot of times defendants will initially offer low settlement amounts in the hopes that they can pay as little as possible.

Attorneys at an experienced medical malpractice law firm will be able to advise you on what to expect when it comes to misdiagnosis settlement amounts. The decision of whether to accept the settlement will depend on the unique aspects of each individual case, including the severity of the damage caused by the misdiagnosis, the costs related to the misdiagnosis, the strength of your evidence, and the settlement amount offered.

Paying for Your Cancer Misdiagnosis Lawsuit

Attorneys who specialize in medical malpractice cases often do so on a contingency basis. This means they only get paid when they secure money for their clients. You do not need to pay anything up front.

Having cancer is a terrible thing. Losing one’s life to cancer due to a medical provider’s failure to order a simple test is an unforgivable act of medical negligence. It is understandable for a person who hears they have cancer to have questions about their prognosis and whether or not their cancer should have been diagnosed earlier. A medical malpractice lawyer can help answer many of those questions.

The first step in the process is to sit down for a free consultation with the lawyer. This will give you an opportunity to ask questions and understand the process before you decide whether to move forward with your malpractice claim.

Cancer Misdiagnosis Is Serious

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