By Chris N. Jackson
One of the most common reasons medical malpractice lawsuits are brought forth is because of patient misdiagnosis. This type of suit is especially disturbing because when an illness or condition is not properly diagnosed; proper treatment is not given which can be devastating. A cancer misdiagnosis can be extremely serious and may lead to death, which could have otherwise been avoided if early treatment had been administered.
Today, the medical profession has a series of standard tests that are to be used to help detect various forms of cancer. The exact type of test that is to be used may vary somewhat depending on what type of cancer the doctor suspects. This is precisely where the problem occurs. Since there is no one test, or one set of tests that can be used to locate all forms of cancer, your doctor must adequately assess your symptoms so the proper test can be ordered. Routine cancer screenings are important for this reason; as some forms of cancer are already in advanced stages by the time symptoms occur.
Cancer misdiagnosis happen more than you may want to believe. According to a recent study conducted by Harvard University, cancer is one of the most commonly misdiagnosed diseases in the United States. When this happens, the cancer grows, spreads, and then becomes less likely to be able to be treated.
Some of the most commonly misdiagnosed forms of cancer include:
Breast Cancer: Even though there have been major advancements in the treatment of breast cancer, it still tops the list of the most commonly misdiagnosed types of cancer. This is due to the fact that it is one of the most commonly occurring types of cancer. It is estimated that as many as ten percent of all women will be diagnosed with breast cancer at some point in their lives. Regular screenings, such as mammograms, have become an essential early detection tool. These types of screenings should be done as early as possible in order to catch the cancer in its beginning stages. The main reason that breast cancer is so commonly misdiagnosed is because physicians often do not have the proper skills to detect breast lumps, interpret test results properly, and recognize the symptoms of inflammatory breast cancer, which is a rare, but aggressive form. This type of cancer is often misdiagnosed as an infection because it does not cause lumps, only an inflammation.
Lung Cancer: It is not uncommon for lung cancer to be misdiagnosed as a much less serious condition, such as bronchitis, a respiratory infection, or COPD. Since there are no early detection tests for lung cancer it is not often detected until the late stages, which makes treatment quite difficult.
Colorectal Cancer: This form of cancer is another commonly misdiagnosed form for several reasons. In early stages, many people have no symptoms at all, making early detection screenings, such as colonoscopies, critical. Also, when symptoms are present, they are often mistaken for more minor illnesses, such as hemorrhoids or irritable bowel syndrome. Finally, colorectal cancer is somewhat embarrassing to discuss, therefore many patients delay treatment.
Brain Cancer: Brain cancer often does not present symptoms that are consistent and is commonly misdiagnosed as migraine headaches.
While there are no guarantees in the medical world, it is inevitable that there are going to be mistakes made, such as a cancer misdiagnosis. When these mistakes are made, the consequences can be deadly, and a patient may have to undergo many unnecessary medical treatments that can be painful and expensive. Missing a diagnosis completely can lead to delayed treatment causing more severe disease progression and even death.
When this occurs, a patient and/or the surviving family members may be able to sue the physician for lost wages, medical expenses, lost quality of life, pain and suffering, and more.
Cancer can be deadly and in the United States is the second leading cause of death; second only to heart disease. This disease can be agonizing for both the patient and their family members. Delaying treatment will only worsen these affects, and there may also be other underlying conditions also misdiagnosed or overlooked causing the disease to progress even further.
Now that we have looked at what types of misdiagnosis can take place, and the consequences they can bring, it is now important to determine why these mistake happen in the first place.
Benign tumors are diagnosed mistakenly as malignant, and vice versa;
Tests are not properly conducted, interpreted, or they are mishandled by the hospital or medical facility;
Tests are completely misread by the doctor or other medical staff;
The doctor does not send the patient to a cancer specialist to request more in-depth tests be conducted;
Early screening is not done, or is not done properly for patients who are considered to be high risk;
Doctors dismiss patient complaints or symptoms.
If you or someone you love has experienced the heartbreak of a cancer misdiagnosis, you know firsthand how devastating this can be on your life as well as the lives of others around you. It is very important that you seek the assistance of a personal injury attorney in order to help recoup some of your damages for medical expenses, lost income, pain and suffering, and funeral expenses. Surviving family members may also be able to sue the physician for wrongful death and punitive damages as well.
Since this issue is extremely sensitive, it can be difficult to determine a monetary value. Because of this, courts now base their figures on previous court awards. Some states have placed limits on compensation and cap damages between $250,000 and $750,000.
It will be very difficult, if not impossible, to file a medical malpractice suit for a cancer misdiagnosis without the help of a medical malpractice attorney who specializes in this area. The expertise of a professional who has dealt with a number of cases of a similar natures knows the ins and out of the system well, and will be able to effectively manage your case to achieve the very best possible settlement.
The above is general information only. If you have any questions whatsoever, talk with a medical malpractice lawyer licensed in your state.