Cancer is the second most common cause of death in the United States, surpassed only by heart disease. Early detection is crucial for cancer patients to take advantage of less invasive, and more effective treatment options. A misdiagnosis, or failure to diagnose, allows the cancer to advance and spread, often significantly decreasing the patient’s chances of a full recovery. If there is an opportunity to correctly diagnose cancer, and it is missed or misdiagnosed by a doctor, then they may be guilty of medical malpractice.
What Constitutes Medical Malpractice When Diagnosing Cancer?
In Pennsylvania, medical malpractice law requires that a doctor exercise reasonable and ordinary care when treating a patient. If they fail to follow what are known as the reasonable standards of care, and that failure results in harm to the patient, then the patient may have grounds to sue for medical malpractice. When diagnosing or treating a cancer patient, some of the accepted standards of care include:
- Performing an appropriate physical exam dependent upon the patient’s symptoms. This may include lab tests, imaging and biopsies
- Creating a competent treatment plan
- Referring the patient to a specialist for additional testing and treatment
- Keeping within an acceptable time frame when interpreting and relaying test results
A failure to diagnose, or misdiagnosis, can occur for a variety of reasons, at any stage of the process. It may be a delayed referral, or that the doctor does not take the patient’s complaints as seriously as they should. The doctor may misread a test, or fail to order one altogether. Then there are cases in which all proper testing is done, and the results are interpreted correctly, yet the doctor still fails to recommend the proper treatment. In any of the above scenarios, the doctor is guilty of medical malpractice, as they have failed to adhere to reasonable standards of care. Unfortunately, when it comes to cancer diagnosis, the resulting damage is often devastating, and irreversible.
What Evidence Do I Need to Sue?
If either you or a loved one have suffered due to a misdiagnosis, and you think it may be the result of medical malpractice, it is important to understand what is necessary to receive compensation for your damages. To build a case for a delayed diagnosis or misdiagnosis, your attorney at a minimum will need to prove the following:
- That there was a delay in diagnosis or a misdiagnosis
- That the said delay or misdiagnosis was the result of the doctor’s treatment, or lack thereof
- That this led to an in increased risk of spread, or recurrence of cancer
- That the patient subsequently sustained damages
Common Types of Misdiagnosed Cancers
Many types of cancer are treatable when they are detected in early stages. Sadly, it goes undiagnosed, and is misdiagnosed, far too often. Because it can present such a broad array of similar symptoms, cancer is one of the most misdiagnosed and deadliest diseases in the world. The following are some of the more commonly misdiagnosed cancers:
- Breast Cancer
- Colorectal Cancer
- Lung Cancer
- Pancreatic Cancer
Those four cancers alone account for a significant amount of physician-reported errors. The most commonly reported reason for the misdiagnoses is the physician’s failure to order a biopsy after receiving an abnormal test result.
Bear in mind that, in Pennsylvania, the statute of limitations for cases of medical malpractice is two years. This includes those that involve delayed diagnosis. There are a few exceptions to the limitations. If the patient is a minor, the limitations are often stalled, or tolled, until the minor turns 18. The limitations may also be tolled if the patient is unaware that harm has been done until after the two-year period has passed. This can be seen when doctors fail to communicate diagnostic results to patients. No matter the circumstances, if you believe you have a case, contact an experienced medical malpractice attorney promptly to ensure you are within time limitations.
With an expert staff of medical and legal professionals working together, it is no wonder Ross Feller Casey is the leading cancer misdiagnosis firm in Philadelphia and across Pennsylvania. At Ross Feller Casey we work hard to ensure you get the compensation you deserve, so that you can focus your time and energy where it matters - with your loved ones.
Ross Feller Casey handles cases of cancer misdiagnosis on a contingency basis. This means that you do not pay unless there is a financial recovery in your case. Call us for your free consultation today.