Melanoma Misdiagnosis

Melanoma is the rarest and most dangerous type of skin cancer. Melanoma is formed when damage to melanocytes triggers mutations in the skin cells. If melanoma is detected and treated early, it can nearly always be cured. However, misdiagnosis and late diagnosis of melanoma can allow the cancerous cells to multiply and spread rapidly through the body. Melanoma can be fatal, and kills an estimated 8,800 patients in the U.S. annually.

Melanoma can occur in any of the melanocytes throughout the body. Most commonly, melanoma occurs in moles on the skin, but can also occur in the pigmented part of the eye or in the intestines. These are rare cases, however, as melanoma is usually triggered by over exposure to ultraviolet light.

Treatment of Melanoma

Early Stage Melanoma Treatment

If melanoma is caught in the earliest stages, all of the cells that are affected may be removed during the biopsy. If this is not the case, but there is only a small area affected, a second surgery may suffice to remove the remaining cancerous cells. In these cases, there may be no further treatment required.

Treating Metastasizing Melanoma

If melanoma has spread beyond the skin, it is said to have metastasized. Cancer often spreads to the lymph nodes when metastasis begins, so surgery to remove affected lymph nodes may eliminate the cancer. However, at this stage further medical treatment is often recommended, as cancerous cells may be missed or cancer may recur after surgery.

Chemotherapy is one of the most common treatments for melanoma. Chemotherapy can be administered in pill form or intravenously. In some cases, the attending physician will choose to administer the medication directly to the affected area of the body in order to prevent the medication from affecting other areas of the body. This process is called isolated limb perfusion, and can help to treat melanoma more directly. Chemotherapy has also been known to destroy healthy cells and have detrimental side effects, so physicians may attempt to limit the damage.

Treating Melanoma in Later stages

Radiation therapy may be used to treat melanoma that has spread to organs. During radiation therapy, energy beams are concentrated on certain areas of the body in order to kill cancerous cells. Drugs such as interferon and interleukin are often given in addition to other types of melanoma treatment in an attempt to boost the body’s immunity, although these drugs have side effects. The most common side effect is a general ill feeling similar to the flu.

Cancer research is a continual process for both scientists and physicians, and advancements are made daily. Many new clinical trials are often tested on patients that do not respond well to traditional forms of treatment. Clinical trials can involve combining traditional methods of treatment in new ways, or testing new drugs, vaccines, and targeted therapies that have not yet been tested. While some clinical trials show success and help evolve the methods of melanoma treatment, side effects are not known and the treatment is not guaranteed to be successful.

Misdiagnosis of Melanoma

Diagnosing melanoma late or misdiagnosing it can have highly detrimental effects on the life of a patient. While the melanoma may have been easily curable in early stages, a late diagnosis may allow the melanoma to metastasize, making treatment more difficult and expensive. In some cases, a late diagnosis may limit or negate the effectiveness of treatment. Melanoma can kill patients if not treated early enough.

Melanoma can be difficult to diagnose, even for experienced dermopathologists. Misdiagnosis can be the result of doctor not recommending the proper diagnostic tests, the doctor not sending the patient to a specialist that would be better suited to diagnose melanoma, or an error on the part of the dermopathologist or pathologist reviewing the test results. Results should always be sent to a dermopathologist, as pathologists do not receive the same level of training for diagnosing cancers, specifically melanomas. However, many health care facilities utilize pathologists as the services may be less costly.

Handling a Misdiagnosis of Melanoma

Many cases of misdiagnosis of melanoma result in fatality. If a physician did not properly diagnose melanoma in time to administer proper treatment, the physician or facility may be liable. An attorney can help patients to recover costs associated with treatment that are a result of a misdiagnosis. An attorney will also be able to help family members that have lost a loved one due to a misdiagnosis of melanoma.




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