Pancreatic Cancer Misdiagnosis: Is Legal Action Possible?

No words can shake the human spirit more profoundly than, “you have cancer.” Many patients, to say nothing of their loved ones, are immediately thrown into a tail-spin. But some malignant tumors can be excised; a lot of them respond well to treatments like chemo and radiotherapy. For hundreds of thousands of people, there’s hope.

Pancreatic cancer is different. According to the Hirshberg Foundation for Pancreatic Cancer Research, the disease is “still considered largely incurable,” despite recent advances in medical science.

No matter the stage, the one-year survival rate for pancreatic cancer climbs no higher than 20%. The five-year survival rate is 6%. For an estimated 40,500 patients every year, the words “you have pancreatic cancer” are a death sentence.

die within a year80%

Do I Have A Misdiagnosed Pancreatic Cancer Lawsuit?

But the moment of diagnosis can be just as terrifying as the road ahead. Especially when that moment has come too late, when a tumor has already progressed to Stage IV and begun strangling the liver or lungs.

Given the terrible nature of pancreatic cancer, it’s almost perverse how frequently the condition is misdiagnosed. A recent study found that nearly one in three patients with a pancreas tumor were first told they’re symptoms arose from a benign condition. That’s 16,320 people every year, left to suffer from debilitating symptoms and prescribed ineffective drugs.

Some of these patients are the victims of medical negligence, although few know it. Pancreatic cancer makes it hard to know; the disease rarely presents symptoms until having metastasized beyond the point of surgery. But misdiagnoses shouldn’t be ignored.

What Is Medical Malpractice?

Every cancer misdiagnosis lawsuit comes down to a basic ethical consideration: there’s a right method for catching the disease and a wrong method.

We should be able to expect that our doctors, along with the imaging technicians and pathologists behind the scenes, are well-versed in the right method and stick with it for every patient. In matters of law, we call this correct method the “standard of care.”

When medical professionals deviate from the standard of care, harming a patient, they can be held liable for medical negligence.

Since cancer is such a complex, and ever-changing, area of research, our medical malpractice attorneys rely on expert opinions to define an appropriate standard of care in each case. But there are several fundamental concerns any medical professional should mind; every doctor owes their patients that much:

  • your symptoms should be taken seriously
  • none of your concerns should be dismissed
  • doctors have to explore multiple potential diagnoses
  • technicians and pathologists should try their utmost to avoid making mistakes

Time after time, we see these principles violated. When ethical lapses cause real harm, we believe no patient or family should be left without the support a medical malpractice lawsuit can bring.

A Fatal “Mimic”: Pancreatic Cancer & Its Impostors

Misdiagnoses rates are so high for pancreatic cancer because it’s symptoms, when they appear, are “nonspecific” and easily confused with benign conditions:

Symptoms Of Pancreatic Cancer Conditions They’re Mistaken For
  • Jaundice; a yellowing of the skin and eyes
  • Lost appetite
  • Abdominal pain; often radiates to the back
  • Depression
  • Weight loss
  • Blood clots
  • Gallbladder disease
  • Celiac disease
  • Pancreatitis
  • Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS)
  • Pancreatic pseudocyst; a benign abdominal mass/li>
  • Biliary stricture; a common complication after surgery on bile ducts

Physicians have a wealth of diagnostic techniques at their disposal; imaging and blood tests are crucial in ruling out possible diagnoses and getting to the core of a patient’s illness. Were you afforded that care, or were your early warning signs chalked up to a benign condition? In many doctors’ minds, benign simply means “easier to treat.”

Were Your Risk Factors Considered?

While the field of medicine has become increasingly specialized over the decades, doctors are still tasked with treating the whole person. This means a holistic approach is key; physicians should evaluate the totality of their patients’ activities and environment, rather than rely on a single CT scan or ultrasound.

Turns out this integrated method can be highly effective in distinguishing between a malignant tumor and something like gallbladder disease. Certain risk factors greatly increase the likelihood of developing pancreatic cancer:


Pancreatic cancer is twice as likely in smokers than non-smokers.

Up to 30% of exocrine malignancies are thought to be directly caused by tobacco use.


Being obese can increase your risk of pancreatic cancer by as much as 20%.

People who carry extra weight around the belly, but don’t seem “overweight,” may still be at risk.


Many workplace toxins increase the risk of pancreatic cancer. Pesticides and dyes spur abnormal cell growth.

People in metal refining may be at the highest risk.

Pancreatic cancer misdiagnoses seem to be most likely for young patients, since many doctors think of cancer only as an “old person’s disease.”

Why Should I File A Cancer Misdiagnosis Lawsuit?

Because you or your loved one deserved better care. Because families need to know the truth, before it’s too late. Because crippling pain and emotional trauma must be taken seriously.

Every month lost to an ineffective treatment is a lifetime of agony for patients and their families. Every day spent worrying about tomorrow is a stolen opportunity to live in the present.

At Marciano & MacAvoy, we help patients and their loved ones begin preparing for the future now. Over decades of legal experience, we’ve guided hundreds of people who were misdiagnosed to successful resolutions. Our past verdicts and settlements speak for themselves. But it’s time your voice was heard. Call our cancer misdiagnosis lawyers today for a free consultation.


Do You Need A Personal Injury Lawyer To Fight For Your Rights?
If you have been seriously injured because of someone else's negligence, the lawyers at Marciano & MacAvoy are here to help. We offer free consultations. To schedule yours, please call

Verdicts & Settlements

from Marciano & MacAvoy