Failure to diagnose cancer is a legal term used to describe an incident where a medical professional fails to identify and treat cancer in a patient. Failure to diagnose typically indicates that the patient exhibited visible cancer signs and symptoms, and therefore a cancer diagnosis should have been made. For many patients, failure to diagnose has devastating outcomes.
Generally, successful cancer elimination depends on early diagnosis and treatment. When failure to diagnose cancer occurs, the patient often misses a critical timeframe during which treatment is most effective. Patients who experience harm from failure to diagnose may be able to recover compensation through a cancer misdiagnosis lawsuit.
Failure to Diagnose Cancer Examples
The following are examples of the failure to diagnose cancer:
- A routine mammogram indicates a suspicious lesion on a patient’s breast, but the doctor fails to identify the lesion or conduct additional testing to confirm whether or not it is cancer.
- A blood test indicates that a patient has abnormal levels of a certain protein which may be produced by cancerous tumors, but the doctor does not investigate the cause of the abnormal protein levels.
- A patient reports a series of digestive symptoms that may suggest colorectal cancer. The doctor only acknowledges a few of the symptoms to diagnose the patient with irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), and dismisses the symptoms that do not fit the IBS diagnosis.
Failure to Diagnose Complications
If cancer patients receive a proper cancer diagnosis, it often occurs in later stages when the disease may have metastasized, or spread in the body. In these cases, cancer is more difficult to treat. Cancer treatment in advanced stages may require more forms of treatment, such as a combination of surgery and chemotherapy. Furthermore, treatment of later cancer stages must typically be more aggressive. This can result in additional pain, discomfort, and loss of quality of life for the cancer patient.
Death from Failure to Diagnose
Depending on the nature of the cancer’s growth, the patient may have missed the opportunity to be fully cured. In these cases, treatment may be administered solely for the purpose of alleviating the patient’s symptoms and improving the quality of the remainder of the patient’s life. In severe failure to diagnose scenarios, the patient may die before any cancer diagnosis is made.
Causes of Failure to Diagnose
Depending on the nature of each patient’s case, failure to diagnose may be unavoidable. This occurs when the patient’s cancer does not exhibit clear signs or symptoms that are reasonably identifiable by medical professionals. This is not uncommon, as the nature of cancer is generally misunderstood in medicine. Cancer often does not exhibit clear signs until advanced stages. In some cases, cancer may not exhibit any symptoms. However, the term “failure to diagnose” is most often used in a legal environment to indicate a doctor’s negligence in cancer diagnosis.
Negligence in Failure to Diagnose
In law, failure to diagnose lawsuits involve the negligence of a medical professional who was responsible for identifying the patient’s symptoms and diagnosing the cancer. Negligence is defined as a medical professional’s lack of proper attention and care when treating a patient. This means that the medical professional had access to sufficient information and resources to make a cancer diagnosis, but failed to do so.
Standard of Care
To determine whether or not failure to diagnose was caused by negligence, the court will compare the actions of the medical professional to the standard of care in the industry. The standard of care is the expected level of treatment that each patient should receive. The standard of care is typically established by interviewing and observing other medical professionals of similar specialization, experience, and medical qualifications. If the actions of the doctor in question do not meet the industry’s expectations as set forth by similar medical professionals, the doctor may be found guilty of negligence.
Investigating Failure to Diagnose
Cancer patients who experience failure to diagnose will often learn of the failure through another medical professional. Patients who feel that their symptoms do not align with their doctor’s diagnosis or recommended treatment plan should immediately consult another medical professional. The patient’s initiative in seeking another opinion may be the only means of receiving a proper diagnosis. Patients who believe they were failure to diagnose victims should consult a cancer misdiagnosis attorney as soon as possible to discuss legal options.
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