According to the American Cancer Society’s Cancer Facts & Figures, 2008, 1,437,180 Americans will have developed some form of cancer. Of those cancer victims, approximately 565,650 will succumb to the disease. Cancer may remain undiagnosed in its early stages when there may be virtually few or no symptoms. Another complicating factor to diagnosis of cancer is that, because it can involve any area of the body, symptoms can vary widely. A third complication is symptoms of cancer can mimic an assortment of other diseases or conditions causing a physician to fail to diagnose the cancer or misdiagnose cancer as another condition.
Tests and interpretation of the results are another area where failure to diagnose or misdiagnosis of cancer may occur. If the physician does not order tests to investigate symptoms there is the possibility the cancer will progress to a later stage and, therefore, reduce the patient’s chances of survival. Misinterpretation of test results can result in non-treatment of the cancer or, in the alternative, treatments for a cancer that does not exist. Chemotherapy, radiation and surgery may be performed unnecessarily and cause the patient untold suffering.
The American Cancer Society lists approximately 40 different types of cancer in its Cancer Facts & Figures, 2008. These are the more commonly found cancers and do not include rare forms. With this many types of cancer, many health care providers are not sufficiently knowledgeable to recognize and test symptoms. Nonetheless, there are incidences where symptoms of even the most common forms of cancer, bladder, breast, colon and rectal, endometrial, kidney, leukemia, lung, melanoma and non-melanoma, non-Hodgkin lymphoma, pancreatic, prostrate and thyroid, are overlooked. For the rare form of cancers, there exists a higher risk it will not be diagnosed properly.
A patient whose symptoms fall into a category of cancer for which they are not particularly at risk, such as breast cancer in men (less than 1% of males will develop breast cancer or approximately 2,030 cases in 2007), a failure to diagnose or misdiagnosis of cancer possibility increases. Another group at risk are children. Children may not be able to articulate their symptoms and health care providers may dismiss them as childhood growing pains.
The the top ten types of cancers for men and women of all races in the United States for the year 2005 (the latest year statistics are available from the National Program of Cancer Registries) are: lung and bronchus; prostate; female breast; colon and rectum; pancreas; ovary; leukemias; non- Hodgkin lymphoma; liver and IBD; and esophagus.
The the top ten death rate of cancers are for: prostate; female breast; lung and bronchus; colon and rectum; corpus and uterus, NOS; urinary bladder; non- Hodgkin lymphoma; melanomas of the skin; kidney and renal pelvis; and ovary. This data illustrates the urgency and importance of a proper diagnosis of cancer to ensure the best survival prognosis possible.
The most common malpractice lawsuits are for failure to diagnose or misdiagnosis of breast, lung and colon cancers. If you suspect your health care provider has failed to diagnose or misdiagnosed your cancer, firstly, get a second medical opinion immediately and, secondly, contact a qualified malpractice lawyer for advice.
Attorney Richard Hastings, for the past two and one half decades, has been helping injured clients and families collect millions of dollars in losses ranging from motor vehicle accidents to wrongful death, to medical malpractice. He is the founder of Selectcounsel, LLC, a free service that helps you find one of the best lawyers in your area and is the author of the books “How To Find A Great Lawyer” and “Understanding And Improving The Value Of Your Personal Injury Case.”