Lung Cancer Misdiagnosis Lawsuit

This page was fact-checked by Dr. Francis Perry Wilson, M.D. on April 22, 2019 to ensure that it meets our rigorous editorial standards. Our writers use only legitimate, authoritative sources including government websites, legal authorities, medical society publications, and peer-reviewed medical journals.

We’re serious about providing trustworthy information that meets our publishing standards. If you find any errors, please let us know using our contact form.

Lung cancer misdiagnosis lawsuits are filed when a physician uses outdated tools or procedures, does not order screenings, or simply fails to diagnose lung cancer. Patients are then left with few, often costly treatment options. A lung cancer misdiagnosis lawsuit can help offset those costs.

Last year more people died from lung cancer than from breast cancer, colon cancer and prostate cancer combined. Unfortunately, lung cancer misdiagnosis delays treatment and reduces survival time. With proper attention to the patient's symptoms, medical records and established diagnostic standards, many misdiagnosed cases could be prevented.

Was your lung cancer diagnosis delayed? Get a free consultation today

Why People Are Filing Lung Cancer Misdiagnosis Lawsuits

Cancer is hard enough to treat when doctors diagnose it early. However, when a diagnosis is delayed due to a missed screening or a failure to recognize symptoms of cancer, treatment can become even more difficult.

Unfortunately, lung cancer is fairly easy to misdiagnose due to the subtlety of its symptoms. Diagnosis becomes even more difficult if doctors do not follow the appropriate screening and testing procedures. If a diagnosis is delayed, a patient may not be able to start treatment until their cancer has progressed to a more advanced stage, possibly with a substantially lower 5-year survival rate. Thus, medical professionals who fail to follow the diagnostic process thoroughly could be considered negligent and become liable in a medical malpractice lawsuit.

Lung Cancer Misdiagnosis

From 2002 to 2014, the most frequently alleged kind of medical malpractice involved mistakes in diagnosis. Among radiologists, who often bear the responsibility of identifying multiple types of cancer, misdiagnosis accounts for more than 80% of malpractice claims.

Two mistakes commonly lead to missed lung cancer diagnoses: incorrectly reading screening images and failing to follow-up on suspicious screening results. This means patients must maintain the highest level of vigilance, especially when they undergo any kind of imaging. If a doctor or hospital fails to follow-up after a screening, the patient should not assume that no news is good news.

Symptoms Observed in Lung Cancer

Most patients do not have symptoms until the later stages of lung cancer, but some people in the earlier stages experience the following:

  • Shortness of Breath
  • Weight Loss
  • Loss of Appetite
  • Chest Pain upon Deep Breathing, Coughing or Laughing
  • Hoarseness
  • Persistent Cough That Does Not Go Away
  • Recurrent Bronchitis or Pneumonia
  • New Onset Wheezing

Note: Most of these symptoms are most likely not to be caused by cancer. Still, it's important for anyone experiencing these symptoms to see a doctor right away. This gives the patient and physician the best chance of catching a serious problem early enough to treat it successfully.

Lung Cancer Screening

Individuals that may be susceptible to developing lung cancer should discuss screening with their physician. The United States Preventive Services Task Force recommends annual lung cancer screening for adults 55 to 80 years of age who either smoke heavily or quit within the last 15 years. Those with lesser histories of smoking or smoke exposure should discuss their risk factors and appropriate screening with a physician, but routine tests are not generally recommended for them in the absence of

The goal is to find the cancer before symptoms emerge, offering patients a better chance at early detection and effective treatment. The symptoms of lung cancer can vary based on type (small cell lung cancer vs. non-small cell lung cancer). Its tendency to mimic many other conditions can also make diagnosis difficult.

Even with proper screening, some imaging test results can still lead to a misdiagnosis due to misinterpretation by a doctor. Some of the most common errors made in lung cancer test results include:

Scanning error: Failing to examine the diagnostic image in a systematic way can cause the reader to skip parts of the image, possibly containing a cancerous lesion.

Recognition error: Fatigue, bias and lack of vigilance can lead to failure of detection.

Decision-making error: The observer may inaccurately interpret an abnormality.

Common Lung Cancer Diagnostic Tests

See how doctors usually find lung cancer.
Chest X-Ray

Your doctor can order a regular x-ray of your chest. If anything suspicious pops up, more tests can be ordered. X-rays don't usually confirm cancer, but they do help physicians decide when to keep looking for it.

Computed Tomography (CT) Scan

CT scans are like a high definition version of an x-ray. Instead of taking one picture though, they take hundreds of pictures from different angles. Then those images are read using special software that can turn them into a three-dimensional representation of your lungs. They are far more likely to show tumors than regular chest x-rays.

Sputum Cytology

This test uses a microscope to examine a sample of coughed up mucus, often one sample each day for several days in a row. The pathologist will look for cells in the mucus and examine them for evidence of cancer.

Lung Tissue Biopsy

After finding evidence of possible cancer through one or more of the tests above, a physician may move on to obtaining and testing the tissue in question. Usually, a special needle is used to access the area of concern and remove a small sample of tissue. The tissue is then sent to a pathology lab for a fully analysis.

Lung Cancer Misdiagnosis Claims

Although an accurate diagnosis is always important, it is particularly important for lung cancer cases, due to the aggressive nature of the disease. Detection in the early stages allows lung cancer patients a greater range of treatment options, including aggressive surgeries and chemotherapy treatments that might not be helpful in later stages.

Plaintiffs in lung cancer misdiagnosis lawsuits often claim one or more of the following:

  • Negligently Incorrect Diagnosis
  • Prevention of Cure or Meaningful Survival
  • Failure to Communicate Results
  • Failure to Obtain or Consider Patient History

When misdiagnosis of lung cancer results from a physician's failure to recognize or follow-up on symptoms, they can be held liable for medical malpractice.

Lung Cancer Misdiagnosis Settlements and Verdicts

For patients and families affected by lung cancer misdiagnosis, the costs truly cannot be counted. Aside from medical bills, many people are robbed of time and life experiences with their loved one. In past cases of misdiagnosis due to medical malpractice, some individuals have received sizable jury awards and settlements.

Ingram Family - $2.7 Million

Gail Ingram underwent screening in late 2012 for symptoms that could have been caused by lung cancer. A radiologist viewed the screening images and diagnosed her with inflammation of the pancreas. Unfortunately, those same images clearly showed a small nodule on the base of Ingram's right lung, but she was never informed of that nodule.

By the time Ingram's cancer was diagnosed, it had grown to four times its size in 2012, and it had spread to multiple parts of her body. She died of lung cancer in June 2014, less than two years after her cancer was initially misdiagnosed. Ms. Ingram's family filed a medical malpractice lawsuit against the radiologist responsible for the misdiagnosis, and the jury awarded them $2.7 million in damages.

Wilkinson Family - $625,000

Lavern Wilkinson went to the emergency room in 2010 complaining of chest pain. Doctors ordered an EKG and chest x-ray, the latter of which showed a sizable mass in her right lung. No one informed Wilkinson of the mass, and she was sent home by a resident who instructed her to take some Motrin.

In May 2012, after another visit to the ER, doctors finally found her lung cancer, but it had spread throughout her body, even into her brain. She died of the incurable cancer in 2013, only after being told it was too late to file a malpractice lawsuit according to the statute of limitations. As a single mom, her situation sparked outrage that eventually led to changes in state laws.

Wilkinson's lawyer later succeeded in suing the people responsible for her misdiagnosis and untimely death, securing $625,000 in damages for Wilkinson's disabled daughter.

Lung Cancer Misdiagnosis Lawsuit FAQs

Am I Eligible to File a Lung Cancer Misdiagnosis Lawsuit?

Patients diagnosed with lung cancer later than they should have been may be eligible for a lung cancer misdiagnosis lawsuit. If a patient succumbs to lung cancer after a delayed or missed diagnosis, surviving family members may be able to file a wrongful death lawsuit.

Note that not all delayed or missed diagnoses will qualify for a lawsuit. Doctors who follow the appropriate screening procedures and follow-up on symptoms according to generally accepted standards are not considered to be negligent.

What Compensation Can a Lung Cancer Misdiagnosis Lawsuit Bring My Family?

The types and amounts of compensation a lung cancer patient or their loved ones may receive is different from case to case. A variety of economic and non-economic factors can go into the final calculation, including:

  • The amount of pain and suffering caused by the delayed diagnosis and any unnecessary procedures or prescriptions
  • The costs of treatment for the cancer, especially for additional therapies required due to the misdiagnosis
  • Income lost due to missed work
  • Punitive damages to discourage future negligence on the doctor's part

Having documentation of your various expenses will help to calculate the amount you may request as part of a lawsuit or settlement.

How Much Does a Lung Cancer Misdiagnosis Lawsuit Cost?

Lung cancer misdiagnosis cases are typically undertaken on a contingency basis, meaning that you will only have to pay legal fees if your case ends in compensation.

Talk to our Malpractice Lawyers Now

Get a Free Case Evaluation