Top Chicago Medical Malpractice Lawyers — Failure to Diagnose Cancer
When cancer is diagnosed early, the treatment and survival rate increases significantly. However, when a cancer misdiagnosis occurs, and a patient is led down the wrong path by medical professionals, the risk of death and costs of treating the cancer increases dramatically. In addition to significant medical expenses, intensive chemotherapy and radiation therapy (often involving higher doses than required at earlier stages of cancer) can be painful and cause debilitating side effects, leading to a severely diminished quality of life.
Cancer misdiagnoses can occur when a doctor attributes symptoms of cancer to another disease. It can also occur through a complete failure to diagnose or detect cancer, i.e. the doctor does not test for cancer when obvious cancer signs exist, or misinterprets a test for cancer. In either scenario, this type of medical malpractice can be devastating.
Types of Cancer Misdiagnosis Claims:
The following are other frequently reported types of negligence by doctors in misdiagnosed cancer cases:
- Failing to recognize common symptoms of cancer
- Failing to order appropriate testing, including x-rays, CT scans or MRI’s
- Failing to properly analyze test results or misreading test results
- Failing to identify an obvious lump during breast examination
- Failing to follow-up with the patient or with test results
- Failing to order a biopsy or future tests
- Misdiagnosing a tumor as benign
Stages of Cancer — Increased Risk of Harm
Cancer “Staging” describes the extent or severity of an individual’s cancer based on the extent of the original tumor and the extent of spread in the body. The impact of cancer misdiagnosis often depends on the stage the cancer at the time of the misdiagnosis (i.e. negligence), as opposed to the stage of the cancer at the time it is eventually correctly diagnosed.
Through appropriate testing, such as mammograms, X-ray, MRI, CT scans and pathology, doctors are able to detect cancer at an early stage and treat it successfully. However, where doctors fail to follow the appropriate standard of care, and cancer goes undetected, diagnosed or treated until a later stage in the cancer’s development, such as Stage 3 (III) or Stage 4 (IV), the patient may have a viable medical malpractice action to recover damages for the “increased risk of harm” due to the delayed diagnosis.
Timely diagnosis and treatment of cancer are critical to a patient’s survival rate. In fact, many cases of cancer can be treated and successfully eliminated with an early diagnosis. Types of cancer that typically respond well to early treatment and diagnosis include breast cancer, cervical cancer, colorectal (colon) cancer, kidney cancer, lung cancer, ovarian cancer, prostate cancer, skin cancer, and testicular cancer.
For example, when breast cancer is detected at Stage I, the 5-year survival rate is 100%, as opposed to 20% when detected at Stage IV, according to statistics from the American College of Surgeons National Cancer Data Base. The “Stage” of cancer refers to the size of the tumor, whether the cancer has spread to any lymph nodes, and whether the cancer has metastasized or spread to distant organs (i.e. the lung or bones).
Similarly, colon cancer may be effectively treated if diagnosed correctly at an early stage. Research published in the ANZ Journal of Surgery found that the five-year survival for stage I (1) colon cancer is 93%, but drops to 59% for stage III (3) colon cancer.
Therefore, litigation involving a failure to diagnose cancer often requires lawyers (through their retained experts) to extrapolate backwards, using typical growth rates or statistical models, to estimate the stage of the cancer at the time of the negligence, as compared to the stage of the cancer when it was eventually correctly diagnosed. As noted above, the prognostic implications and survival rates vary greatly depending on the cancer stage. Victims of misdiagnosed cancer are entitled to compensation for their “increased risk of harm” due to the delayed diagnosis, in addition to damages for their pain and suffering, loss of normal life, and medical expenses caused by the medical negligence.
In all cases involving cancer misdiagnosis, it is important to consult with highly qualified medical experts, usually including an oncologist, to review the medical records and to provide opinions as to proximate causation and damages. Therefore, it is critical to contact an experienced medical malpractice attorney with resources and experience dealing with top medical experts.
Contact a Top Chicago Medical Malpractice Lawyer Experienced in Cancer Misdiagnosis
To speak with a Chicago medical negligence lawyer with experience in cases involving cancer misdiagnosis or failure to diagnose cancer, call Passen & Powell at (312) 527-4500 or fill out a Free Case Evaluation.