Types of Cancer Misdiagnosis

There are numerous ways care providers can misdiagnose a patient. They include:

  • Failure to diagnose: When patients present with symptoms, doctors are expected to consider all of their symptoms and look for the best answer—not just the easiest one. If care providers fail to order the proper testing and a patient goes without a proper diagnosis, the patient could be left with fewer treatment options.
  • Incorrect cancer type diagnosis: Treatment options and timelines vary based on a patient’s specific type of cancer. Misidentifying the specific type of cancer someone has can force them to undergo ineffective and painful treatments.
  • False positive or negative: Tests that are performed incorrectly or misinterpreted can lead to false positive and false negative results. False positives may cause patients to undergo potentially dangerous treatment for a disease they don’t have, while false negatives allow the cancer to grow uninhibited.
  • Misclassifying cancer stages: Properly identifying a patient’s cancer stage is crucial for getting them the treatment they need. Misclassifying could lead to improper treatment plans.

How Does Cancer Misdiagnosis Happen?

Several factors contribute to misdiagnosis. Cancer isn’t just one disease—it’s an entire array of diseases affecting different body parts in numerous ways. It’s incredibly complex, and an inexperienced or unsure medical care provider could easily make a mistake when ordering the proper tests or asking the right questions.

Diagnostic errors may also be a result of poor bedside manner. Doctors must know which questions to ask their patients, but some go into appointments with a preconceived notion of their patient’s diagnosis. They ignore anything that falls outside of that notion, so they might miss out on valuable and important information.

Sometimes, misdiagnoses can be attributed to technological issues. While technology has made medical care much more advanced, it isn’t infallible. Laboratory equipment failures, unclear diagnostic imaging, and inaccurate result readings can lead to wrong diagnoses.

Commonly Misdiagnosed Cancers

Any type of cancer can be misdiagnosed, but professionals see the same handful of cancers turn up again and again. Lymphoma is the most commonly misdiagnosed cancer, due in large part to the condition’s symptoms. These symptoms overlap with those caused by colds, the flu, and other diagnoses. The second most commonly misdiagnosed cancer is breast cancer. Doctors may initially miss this diagnosis or aggressively label precancerous cells as cancer. In addition, colon cancer has a notoriously low survival rate at more advanced stages, so a missed diagnosis can be fatal for patients.

Lung cancer is a slow-growing cancer that often causes minimal symptoms in its early stages, making it very easy for doctors to miss. Doctors may misattribute symptoms to pneumonia, asthma, or other health conditions, even when symptoms begin showing up.

Skin cancers are also heavily misdiagnosed, due to the myriad ways in which they may present on the skin. Some skin cancers may look like eczema and other more harmless conditions. Additionally, how skin cancer is diagnosed means that pathologist errors may be likely.

Who Is Responsible for Cancer Misdiagnosis?

Numerous factors are at play in a misdiagnosis. Responsibility generally lies with healthcare providers, as they have the expertise and experience needed to diagnose in an accurate and timely manner. Those with the greatest responsibility include pathologists, radiologists, oncologists, and others involved in the diagnostic process.

However, healthcare facilities may also hold some liability in this area. If they provide inadequate or faulty equipment to care providers, it is incredibly difficult for doctors to do their jobs well. Additionally, they may be held accountable for subsequent misdiagnoses if they provide minimal or inaccurate training. Liability may also fall on healthcare facilities that force doctors to take on unreasonably large patient loads to the point that they cannot possibly provide high-quality care.

Your Legal Options After Cancer Misdiagnosis

After a cancer misdiagnosis, it’s essential to talk to a Lancaster medical malpractice lawyer immediately. Assuming that you have received a correct diagnosis after seeking a second opinion, your attorney will be able to look at the facts of your case and determine whether or not malpractice occurred. In the world of medical malpractice, it’s not enough that a mistake occurred—mistakes happen and are sometimes unavoidable. An error must be serious enough that it is considered a breach of the doctor’s professional standards.

Possible Damages in a Cancer Misdiagnosis Lawsuit

Victims of medical malpractice may be entitled to compensation for the losses caused by their misdiagnosis. Economic damages may include medical expenses and lost wages. If a patient needs more aggressive treatment because of a delayed diagnosis, those expenses should be covered by the liable party.

Non-economic damages, such as pain and suffering, loss of enjoyment of life, and mental trauma may also be awarded. A cancer misdiagnosis can wreak havoc on an individual’s quality of life or leave them with chronic pain. These losses, while not financial, do deserve compensation.

Cancer Misdiagnosis FAQ

How is cancer diagnosed? 

Cancer diagnosis generally starts with a patient interview and medical history. After learning more about physical symptoms, medical professionals may use a range of diagnostic imaging tests to look for abnormal growths. If these growths are worrying, care providers will retrieve a sample and biopsy it to confirm whether or not it is cancer. In some types of cancer, blood tests and other diagnostic tests can prove or solidify a diagnosis.

How do I know if I have a malpractice case?

The only way to know if you have a malpractice case is to talk to a cancer misdiagnosis attorney in Lancaster. This is an incredibly specific area of law that hinges heavily on each specialty’s standard of care, and an attorney can tell you whether or not your doctor has been negligent.

How long do I have to file a lawsuit?

Under Pennsylvania law, a patient must file their claim no later than two years after discovering that someone may have been negligent in their care. If there are discrepancies as to when the patient realized the malpractice, the law states that the clock begins ticking when the patient should have reasonably known malpractice occurred.

Seek Justice for Your Cancer Misdiagnosis—Contact Atlee Hall Now

A cancer misdiagnosis is traumatizing and painful—and sometimes debilitating or fatal. If you’ve been the victim of a misdiagnosis, don’t wait any longer to schedule a consultation with our team. Contact us online or call us at (717) 393-9596 to set up a time to talk to our experienced medical malpractice attorneys now.