The Big C — Cancer

Everyone knows that the key to fighting cancer is detecting it early before it has a chance to spread. Early detection and diagnosis are very important because a cancer patient’s odds of surviving are directly related to the stage at which the cancer is detected. Early cancer detection can sometimes prevent death, the need for surgery, and the need to undergo costly and debilitating treatments such as chemotherapy and radiation.

Because cancer symptoms often share the characteristics of many other medical conditions, proper testing and diagnosis by doctors is critical. However, many doctors fail to properly diagnose cancer and, as a result, the patient does not receive the correct medical care.

A study reported in the online journal Cancer estimated that almost 130,000 people every year suffer some degree of harm from a misdiagnosis of cancer, ranging from having to undergo a second round of tests to consequences that are fatal.

The failure to properly diagnose cancer tends to fall into three primary categories:

  • Failure to order tests. The failure to properly diagnose cancer sometimes occurs because the doctor does not properly assign enough importance to the patient’s complaints. The doctor may fail to take family history into account or may misinterpret a symptom. The doctor may fail to do proper testing including ordering MRIs, mammograms, or PSI tests for prostate cancer.
  • Failure to properly read tests. Sometimes the proper tests are ordered, but the error occurs when the radiologist misreads the film or the pathologist errs in evaluating the biopsy. This leads to a critical delay in diagnosing the cancer and provides the patient with a false sense of relief.
  • Failure to order the proper treatment. Even when tests are done and are evaluated properly, the treating doctor still must order the proper treatment for the condition to heal the patient.

When a doctor fails to diagnose cancer, it greatly reduces the chances for recovery and greatly increases the likelihood that the disease will be fatal. In such a situation, the doctor has deviated from the reasonable standard of care that the medical profession has set for cancer patients. Failure to diagnose cancer cases are often complex. Consult a medical malpractice attorney with experience successfully litigating cancer cases if you feel that you or a loved one was not properly diagnosed with cancer.

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