Cancer is perhaps the most dreaded disease a person can have. If diagnosed early enough, there is a good chance for remission or extending the patient’s life. But in many cases, mistakes are made and the cancer diagnosis is missed. A cancer misdiagnosis can have detrimental and even fatal consequences for the patient, who might have been saved or had a longer life had the physician caught it in time.
If a doctor or other medical professional failed to properly diagnosis your cancer, or that of a loved one, you could have a claim for damages. Scaffidi & Associates helps patients and their families understand their legal rights and fights for the justice they deserve.
What Makes a Cancer Misdiagnosis Different From Others?
Any disease that is not properly diagnosed can lead to significant health complications, even death. Cancer is a unique case. Many individuals instinctively fear cancer without fully understanding the great risk it poses. Broadly speaking, cancer is a type of disease in which human cells undergo abnormal and uncontrolled growth. If not properly contained, this cell growth will invade and destroy other parts of the body, ultimately resulting in death.
Many types of cancer are aggressive, but all types are best treated if detected early. For many patients, this means that timely diagnosing the disease could literally mean the difference between life and death. Scientists have developed a number of techniques to identify cancer or potentially cancerous growths. Among these are X-rays, mammograms, colonoscopies, and more. Using these and other tools, your medical professional can diagnose these and other types of cancers:
- Breast cancer
- Lung cancer
- Melanoma (skin cancer)
- Colon cancer
- Cervical cancer
Why Is Cancer Misdiagnosed?
Some of the more common reasons that cancer is not properly diagnosed include:
Mistaking cancer symptoms for something else. Cancer can be missed because the signs and symptoms are often indicative of another disease. As an example, many lymphoma conditions are similar to those of the common cold.
Misreading an X-ray or other tests. The signs of cancer may be present, and may even clearly point to a cancer diagnosis. But if the patient’s doctor overlooks something in the reading, then it won’t be caught.
Failing to order appropriate tests. If the symptoms are such that a reasonably careful doctor should order tests, then failure to do so could be a form of malpractice. Without proper testing, it is almost certain that the window of opportunity to effectively treat the cancer will be closed.
Not following up with patients. After an initial diagnosis – of cancer or any other disease – the doctor should follow up with the patient. This will reveal whether the condition has worsened, which could indicate that a relatively benign problem is actually cancer.
Failing to collect patient information. Nurses and other professionals need to know your family history, the nature of your symptoms, and other critical information. Missing this early on in the process can have severe consequences later.
Not referring patients to other professionals. Physicians who are not familiar with a disease or how to address symptoms have an obligation to send the patient to someone who does.
Simple medical errors. Mixing up patient records, using defective machines or tests, and other simple oversights can have devastating effects for a cancer patient.
Does a Cancer Misdiagnosis Always Indicate Malpractice?
Doctors are not all-knowing and are not expected to be. But some errors are so serious that they rise to the level of malpractice. A misdiagnosis can indicate medical malpractice if the physician was negligent. Negligence means that whatever your doctor did runs counter to what a reasonable doctor in the same situation would have done.
In particular, to prove malpractice, the patient has to show the following:
- A doctor-patient relationship. The doctor-patient relationship establishes the physician’s obligation to provide you with a certain standard of care.
- Negligence, or failure to act with reasonable care. This is usually demonstrated with expert testimony from another physician in the same area of practice.
- Direct cause of patient injuries. The negligence must be directly linked to some sort of physical harm experienced by the patient, or to the patient’s death.
- Damages. As a result of the above, the patient must have damages.
What Are The Damages A Patient May Experience?
The primary damage caused by a misdiagnosis is the future inability to appropriately correct and treat the disease. Nearly everything else the patient suffers flows from this, for example:
- Medical bills. If the patient has to undergo extensive treatment to correct what was preventable complications from cancer, he or she will incur significant medical bills.
- Prescription drug costs. Cancer drugs are very expensive, and will likely be part of the necessary remedial treatment.
- Lost wages. Undergoing further cancer treatment because it was not caught early will mean missed time from work.
- Reduced earning capacity. Physical damages suffered by the patient could result in his or her inability to work at the same level as before, or even in the same line of work.
- Pain and suffering and emotional distress. The consequences of a misdiagnosis are not just physical but can result in mental and emotional trauma, pain and suffering, loss of enjoyment of life, and related problems.
- Funeral expenses and wrongful death. In the event the patient died, the family must deal with that person’s final expenses, on top of the grief of losing their loved one.
Is There A Time Limit To Pursue Legal Action?
Yes. A medical malpractice case, including misdiagnosis, must usually be filed within 30 months of the time the malpractice occurred, or the last date of continuous treatment.
Because of these strict time limits, it is important that you contact a New York cancer misdiagnosis attorney as early as possible. Scaffidi & Associates can help. We will review your case, advise you of your legal options, and work hard to win the compensation you and your family deserve.