Unfortunately, for many reading this blog, cancer is now a part of your story. When a doctor misdiagnoses cancer, or when there is a preventable delay in diagnosis, your cancer raises a legal question of medical malpractice or negligence.
When a doctor diagnoses a patient with the wrong type of cancer, even timely treatment, when it is the wrong treatment, can be incredibly harmful. Failing to order appropriate tests based on a patient’s self-reported symptoms delays a definitive diagnosis and the start of treatment.
Not every situation that delays a cancer diagnosis is negligence or malpractice. Still, a medical malpractice lawyer should evaluate situations that fall below the “standard of care.” Successful treatment of any catastrophic illness depends on human successes and errors.
The Chicago personal injury lawyers at Zayed Law Offices understand these are challenging times, and we are ready to review your case.
The World Health Organization reports that diagnosis delays or inaccessible cancer care lowers the chance of survival, increases problems associated with treatment, and creates higher care costs. Early diagnosis improves cancer outcomes by providing care at the earliest stage.
Catching Cancer Early
Early detection and treatment can enable survivors of cancer to live a long and normal life. This is one of the reasons why regular visits to the doctor are so important. There have been many instances where doctors have been credited with saving lives through the early detection of cancer. Unfortunately, far too often there are also cases where a patient visited their doctor while presenting clear signs and symptoms of cancer, but were not diagnosed. Sometimes this occurs due to a failure to obtain the right diagnostic tests, such as a CT scan or X-ray. Another reason why this happens is because of assumptions made about symptoms that are simply inaccurate.
There have been many cases where a patient with a chronic cough was diagnosed with allergies, when they actually had cancer. When this happens, the consequences can be fatal because the window for early detection has passed and the cancer often progresses to the point where there are no medical solutions. This situation has occurred even on occasions when the patient presented severe symptoms that should have warranted further investigation to understand and diagnose the root cause of those symptoms.
While some doctors might interpret fatigue, shortness of breath and a chronic cough as signs of lung cancer that warrant diagnostic testing, others might have an entirely different interpretation and assume the symptoms are signs of a non-threatening illness that does not require further investigation. To some degree, the methods and decisions made are a function of the doctors’ education and training.
Most treating physicians understand the importance of ruling out the worse possible scenario, which is referred to as a differential diagnosis. They understand that it’s better to perform the proper testing to rule out a deadly disease, even if it ends up being a minor illness. On the flip side, it’s also possible to misdiagnose cancer by incorrectly reading lab results. Unfortunately, human error plays a significant role in the misinterpretation of critical information, such as data related to a breast tissue biopsy. In some instances, the false diagnoses of cancer can be just as devastating as a failure to diagnose cancer, depending on the subsequent course of action.
There have been many cases where a benign tumor was falsely reported and resulted in cancer treatments. One of the reasons why this is so troubling is because that treatment can cause health issues and complications that were completely avoidable. The equal and opposite is also true. Interpreting a cancerous tumor as benign can delay treatment and result in a devastating outcome. As aforementioned, this delay in treatment can lead to irreversible consequences.
How Cancer Progresses
When cancer spreads in the body, it often metastasizes to other organs. This means there’s a chance that it will begin to affect nerves and blood vessels, which is often when the condition becomes more evident. Unfortunately, there are far too many cases where cancer went undetected for a long period of time because there were no obvious symptoms. A common example is cancer of the pancreas. This type of cancer is hard to detect because the pancreas is a deep organ that’s under the small intestine and behind the stomach. As a result of its location, there usually are no symptoms until the cancer is advanced and has spread.
There are many other types of cancer that do in fact result in symptoms, such as weight loss, dizziness, fever and fatigue. Sometimes the reason why a person with cancer feels tired is because cancer often releases substances in the body that alter the way in which the body processes food. In other words, the body becomes less efficient at using food for energy.
Since cancer treatment is always most effective when the disease is identified early, it’s imperative that you know the symptoms. Here are a few examples: extreme tiredness, unexplained weight loss, constant fever, pain or soreness in the body, lumps under the skin, changes in bladder or bowel function, soars that won’t heal, hoarseness or a nagging cough, unusual bleeding or changes in the skin. These are just a few examples of symptoms that often occur as a result of cancer in the body. They are also examples of when it would be prudent to see a doctor immediately.
The Correlation Between Delayed Diagnosis And Mortality
The practice of medicine has complications and uncertainties. Doctors learn to look for the most probable cause of a patient’s ailment. Unfortunately, not all illnesses are easily identifiable.
Healthline reports that 12 million people in the United States experience medical diagnostic errors each year, and an estimated 40,000 to 80,000 people die annually from complications from these misdiagnoses.
A definitive and timely diagnosis often enables the patient to explore and begin curative treatments before the disease progresses. The National Center For Biotechnology Information reports a significant impact of delayed curative treatment on the risk of death in patients with bladder, breast, colon, rectal, lung, cervical, head, and neck cancers.
The sooner a patient begins systemic treatment, such as oral medication and/or chemotherapy, or surgical intervention, the better their chance for long-term survival. When dealing with cancer, the doctor must initiate the disease management plan promptly. Unfortunately, the ultimate complication of cancer misdiagnosis is an untimely death.
The New England Journal of Medicine states: “To reduce mortality, screening must detect life-threatening diseases at an earlier, more curable stage.” Early and correct detection can mean the difference between life and death.
A Chicago Personal Injury Attorney Explains Some Possible Causes of Cancer Misdiagnosis
Some common reasons for a delayed or incorrect diagnosis:
- A physician treats a reported condition but fails to look for an underlying cause
- The physician does not repeat screening tests with less than definitive results
- The medical practitioner orders the wrong diagnostic test(s)
- The medical practitioner incorrectly performs a diagnostic test
- The medical practitioner inaccurately interprets the diagnostic test
- The medical practitioner refers the patient to an inappropriate specialist
- The medical practitioner does not take the patient’s medical history into account
- A malignant tumor is benign
As a result of these potential errors in judgment, a patient is unaware of a spreading malignancy.
And just like that
- doctors misdiagnose:
- Lung cancer as bronchitis
- Colon cancer as irritable bowel syndrome
- Breast cancer fibrocystic as breast disease
- Pancreatic cancer as diabetes
- Endometrial cancer as fibroids
At the Zayed Law Offices, an experienced Chicago cancer misdiagnosis lawyer will consult with the appropriate medical experts to determine if the doctor took reasonable steps to prevent missing the cancer diagnosis. Our attorneys will do everything they can to get to the bottom of your cancer misdiagnoses.
What Happens When It Isn’t Cancer
Patients with an erroneous cancer diagnosis may undergo needless painful, invasive, and expensive procedures. The effects of these treatments can be devastating. Unnecessary medication can affect your cognition and strength and affect family support relationships.
False-positive tests can result from:
- Highly sensitive technology
- The expertise of those interpreting pathology and radiology studies
- Human error
How a Chicago Cancer Misdiagnosis Lawyer Can Help
The medical negligence and cancer misdiagnosis lawyers at our Chicago office have the knowledge and experience to provide informed legal counsel to victims of a missed or delayed cancer diagnosis. Preventable medical errors can cause suffering and stress for patients and their families. A missed cancer diagnosis is a complex issue to address.
At Zayed Law Offices, we have the determination to take your medical misdiagnosis claim into a courtroom if needed. We want you to have the resolution you need and the restitution you deserve. We work collaboratively with medical experts and financial planners to determine full and fair financial compensation for the pain and suffering caused by another’s negligence.
Liability for unnecessary treatments and mental anguish can rest with a physician, hospital, radiologist, pathologist, or even a technician in the testing lab. Contact us at (312) 883-6907 for your free consultation; we are here to help.