If Melanoma Spreads To The Brain, Could It Be Medical Malpractice?


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Every year, more than 97,000 Americans are diagnosed with melanoma, one of the most dangerous types of skin cancer. Melanoma is known for its ability to grow fast and spread to other body parts easily, so early identification and treatment are essential for survival. When melanoma is misdiagnosed, ignored, or incorrectly treated, it can quickly spread to other organs (called “metastatic melanoma”), where it can be very difficult, if not impossible, to treat.

How Easily Does Melanoma Metastasize?

The most significant warning sign of melanoma is a new spot on the skin or a spot changing in size, shape, or color. It may also look or feel different than the other spots on your skin. It’s important to have a doctor evaluate any unusual skin spots as soon as they’re noticed.

Some types of melanoma spread faster than others. The least aggressive form, lentigo maligna melanoma, may grow on the surface layer of the skin for years without spreading. In contrast, the most aggressive form, nodular melanoma, could become deadly in as little as six weeks. While most people are diagnosed with melanoma in its early stages while it’s still treatable, more than 12 percent of people are diagnosed with melanoma after it’s already spread to lymph nodes or more distant parts of the body. When melanoma does spread, it most commonly metastasizes to the lungs, brain, bones, and liver.

Most studies show that up to 75 percent of people whose melanoma spreads will have one or more brain metastases. When this happens, recovery is rare. Symptoms of melanoma in the brain include:

  • headache
  • paralysis in the arms or legs
  • sleepiness
  • memory problems
  • changes in emotions, personality, or behavior
  • difficulty hearing, seeing, or swallowing
  • seizures
  • nausea and vomiting

How Is Melanoma Diagnosed And Treated?

When someone notices a strange spot on their skin, they may go to their doctor to check it out. A biopsy is typically taken after examining the area of concern, and a pathologist determines whether it’s malignant (cancer) or benign. If it’s shown to be malignant, the first step is usually to determine through blood tests and imaging whether the cancer has spread. Once that’s known, the melanoma and a layer of healthy tissue around the melanoma are surgically removed.

Ideally, if a melanoma is detected before it spreads, it can be surgically removed, and no further treatment is needed. If it’s suspected that cancer has spread to surrounding tissues, lymph nodes, or other organs, radiation, chemotherapy, or other more targeted forms of therapy may be required. The more the melanoma has spread, the less likely treatment is to be successful. Once melanoma has metastasized to the brain, surgery and radiation can remove or shrink some tumors and provide symptom relief, but they don’t stop the disease from progressing. In most cases, these patients only have months left to live.

Can Medical Negligence Cause Melanoma To Metastasize To The Brain?

While a doctor’s negligence won’t make melanoma metastasize, there are various ways in which a medical professional’s negligence can prevent a patient from getting the care they need promptly. Melanoma is given the necessary time to cause irreparable harm when this happens. If someone is concerned about a changing or quickly growing mole and their primary care doctor doesn’t investigate further or make a referral to a specialist, they could be considered negligent if it turns out to be cancer. If a biopsy is taken and the pathologist makes a wrong diagnosis, they could be guilty of malpractice if it later turns out to be melanoma. If a surgeon believes they’ve removed the entire melanoma and recommends against any further treatment or follow-up, they could be found negligent if it can be shown that they didn’t follow the appropriate standard of care in their surgical technique or follow-up recommendations.

If any healthcare professional fails to follow standard medical guidelines and it results in harm, they may be found guilty of medical malpractice. Suppose you believe that your own or a loved one’s melanoma was incorrectly diagnosed or treated, resulting in that melanoma spreading to the brain or other organs. In that case, you may be entitled to compensation. Contact a lawyer who specializes in medical malpractice cases to determine if you have a case.

Why Choose Ross Feller Casey?

When it comes to melanoma, early detection and treatment are key. If a doctor’s negligence caused your treatment to be delayed and it was allowed to metastasize, then you might be able to file a malpractice lawsuit. The team at Ross Feller Casey is recognized as a national leader in malpractice and medical negligence lawsuits, and we’re ready to put our expertise to work for you. Our skilled attorneys and Ivy League-trained doctors understand that each melanoma is different but that early diagnosis and treatment are essential. If you believe a doctor’s negligence resulted in a delayed diagnosis or a delayed (or incorrect) treatment, you deserve justice. Pennsylvania law only gives you two years to file a case, so don’t delay. Contact us today for a free consultation.

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