One type of medical malpractice case that is particularly serious involves cancer misdiagnosis. Because cancer is generally not preventable, many people take a number of steps to minimize the chances that they will get cancer. They may choose to not smoke or to quit smoking, eat healthy foods, avoid excessive sunlight, and exercise often. In addition, they may choose to engage in early detection screening to catch any cancer at the earliest possible time.
Despite these best efforts, it may be the case that doctors performing early detection or other cancer screens misdiagnose cancer or fail to recognize it.
Scenarios When Cancer Misdiagnosis Occurs
Cancer misdiagnosis can occur in a few scenarios. The most common types of misdiagnosis cases are the following:
- Incorrectly determining that a patient does not have cancer.
- Mistakenly diagnosing cancer when the patient does not have cancer.
- Diagnosing the incorrect type of cancer.
Cancer Misdiagnosis Can Cause Serious Problems or Death
When these types of preventable medical malpractice occur, the consequences for patients can be disastrous. Cancer that is detected and caught early can be treated, oftentimes with excellent results. When cancer is allowed to grow undetected and untreated, however, the chance of a favorable outcome may be lost.
Common Reasons Doctors Fail to Diagnose Cancer
There may be several reasons that a doctor or other healthcare provider fails to properly diagnose cancer:
- The doctor failed to run proper diagnostic tests, did not utilize proper radiographical evidence, or failed to order procedures that would have provided evidence that the patient had cancer;
- Even when the doctor ran the proper tests and used correct diagnostic imaging, the doctor may have been careless and missed an obvious sign that cancer was present;
- Some doctors may see signs that suggest cancer and know that the patient should follow up with a specialist or for further treatment but they neglect to inform the patient;
- Perhaps the doctor failed to take a proper and thorough medical history for the patient. Some cancers can be tied to the cancer suffered by other family members. A doctor’s failure to collect that information when gathering medical history can cause the doctor to miss that the patient’s most likely explanation is cancer;
- The doctor failed to perform a proper “differential diagnosis,” which looks to the various explanations regarding why someone has certain symptoms and conditions;
- The doctor fails to listen to information and concerns that the patient provides regarding their condition;
- Diagnosing a malignant tumor as benign, or vice versa;
To have a successful failure to diagnose cancer medical malpractice case in Virginia, it is important to show not just that the doctor failed to properly diagnose cancer, but that the misdiagnosis caused the patient to suffer harm. This is commonly referred to as causation.
Unfortunately, doctors and hospitals will go to tremendous lengths to contend that their mistakes did not cause the plaintiff to suffer any harm. In a cancer misdiagnosis case, for example, the defendant healthcare providers will likely argue that any mistake they made is not what caused the patient’s harm in the first instance. They may contend that the patient likely had a condition that could not be treated even if it had been caught. Or, they may try to attribute the patient’s poor condition to some other cause other than their own missed diagnosis.
For this reason, it is important for injured patients to find experienced and knowledgeable legal help and speak with a Virginia medical malpractice lawyer. An experienced Virginia medical malpractice attorney will have connections with board certified doctors who can evaluate the claim, determine whether the doctors in question violated the standard of care by misdiagnosing cancer, ascertain whether that violation caused the harm, and explain how the harm will impact the patient’s life.
Medical malpractice cases based on misdiagnosis of cancer can be winnable cases. The Charlottesville medical malpractice attorneys at MartinWren, P.C. have the resources, talent, and experience to handle these claims. To see if you have a medical malpractice claim based on cancer misdiagnosis, please call Robert Byrne or Lauren Byrne at 434-817-3100.