Cancer Misdiagnosis Lawsuit

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Cancer misdiagnosis lawsuits are filed when physicians fail to order timely screenings, use outdated tools and procedures, or simply fail to diagnose cancer.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, 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.

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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?

Delayed or failed diagnosis of cancer is the most commonly reported cause for medical malpractice suits among general practitioners. 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, appropriate diagnostic tests are never performed. Patients may believe their symptoms will go away, or doctors may believe the symptoms are caused by another illness, condition or disease. Similarly, pathologists 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 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.

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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. As mentioned above, 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 U.S. 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)1
  • 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 (high risk)2
  • Cervical Cancer
  • Breast Cancer (age 45 - sooner if high risk or by choice)
  • Colon Cancer (high risk)
50 - 64
  • Colon Cancer
  • Lung Cancer (55 based on smoking history)
  • Prostate Cancer (high risk)2
  • Cervical Cancer
  • Breast Cancer
  • Colon Cancer
  • Lung Cancer (55 based on smoking history)
65 - 85
  • Colon Cancer
  • Lung Cancer (55 based on smoking history)
  • Prostate Cancer (high risk)2
  • Cervical Cancer (only if you have a history of cervical pre-cancer)
  • Breast Cancer
  • Colon Cancer
  • Lung Cancer (based on smoking history)
1: Depends on the diagnosis age of the patient's youngest relative diagnosed with colon cancer.

2: Prostate cancer screenings are not recommended for every man and are not recommended at all for men over the age of 70. If you have certain risk factors, your doctor may recommend a PSA test or other screenings.

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. Get a free case review and determine whether you may be able to file a lawsuit.

Cancer Misdiagnosis Settlements and Verdicts

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.

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.

Marlande Lazard - $21.6 Million

Ms. Lazard taught other women how to do breast self-exams as part of medical missions to Haiti. When she found a lump in her own breast, multiple doctors misdiagnosed her with non-cancerous conditions. When her inflammatory breast cancer was finally diagnosed, it had progressed significantly.

Marlande sued the radiologist she says should and could have caught her diagnosis a year earlier. A Miami-Dade judge ruled in her favor, awarding her $21.6 million in damages.

Volodina Family - $4.75 Million Settlement

When Galina Volodina sought treatment for stomach pain and indigestion, a pathologist told her she did not have cancer. But over a year later she was diagnosed with signet ring carcinoma, a type of stomach cancer. Though she underwent treatment, Mrs. Volodina died at the age of 42.

The Volodina family filed a lawsuit alleging the original pathologist misdiagnosed Galina, preventing her from seeking treatment and likely causing her untimely death. They settled the lawsuit for $4.75 million.

Cancer Misdiagnosis Lawsuit FAQs

Can I Sue for Cancer 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.

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.

To prove your case, you will need to gather certain documents. This could include everything from medical records, bills, insurance statements, or even emails and other communications to and from your health care providers. Other health-related evidence that can help you build a case include relevant medical literature, and depositions or testimony from witnesses, such as expert pathologists who can explain standards of care to a jury.

How Much Compensation Can I Receive for a Cancer Misdiagnosis Lawsuit?

Medical malpractice lawsuits like those involving cancer misdiagnosis are subject to various state laws. Depending on the location of the lawsuit, any award or settlement may be limited to the maximum allowable by law.

Regardless of the location, most courts finding for the plaintiff will consider the following when determining the amount of compensation:

  • Treatment costs
  • Lost wages
  • Pain and suffering
  • Loss of opportunity

Punitive damages could also be awarded as a way to penalize the doctor, hospital or other liable parties.

How Much Does a Cancer Misdiagnosis Lawsuit Cost?

By filing a claim on a contingency basis, you will only be required to pay legal fees once you have won compensation.

Cancer Misdiagnosis Is Serious

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