For thousands of years, cancer meant unequivocal death. That’s no longer true. Thanks to radical procedures and therapies, many patients do get better and are able to live long, fulfilling lives. Some aren’t so fortunate.
Few patients ever learn that they’ve lost months or years to a late diagnosis, but thousands of cancer diagnoses are delayed, and patients with rapidly metastasizing tumors are left without the treatments that could extend those precious moments with family and friends.
Delayed diagnosis can and does affect all types of cancer patients, including those suffering from breast cancer, colon cancer, lung cancer, pancreatic cancer, and more. The consequences of a delayed diagnosis—and, therefore, delayed treatment—tend to be much more severe for those dealing with the most aggressive forms of cancer.
Delayed diagnosis may actually be the rule, not the exception. In fact, it’s hard to find a cancer patient who didn’t visit their doctor with the same symptoms three, four, or five times before being referred to a specialist. But diagnosing cancer is difficult, and even the most competent, well-educated physicians fail to catch every tumor before its spread. So how do we know when a delay in diagnosis is actually medical malpractice?
It all comes down to two questions:
Let’s take a closer look at these issues.
We can’t expect general practitioners to understand every nuance of a particular cancer; that’s where oncologists come in. Noticing the common symptoms of malignancy, ordering tests to investigate further, and making referrals to a specialist – those are intuitive steps that every primary care physician should take.
That’s a doctor’s duty; their “standard of care.” When physicians fail to uphold that basic standard, and patients are hurt, they can be held liable in a delayed or misdiagnosis lawsuit.
A violation isn’t enough, though. To win a late diagnosis claim, our attorneys will have to show that a delay in catching your or your loved one’s cancer caused some actual harm.
Guided by their knowledge, we determine:
For example, a patient is diagnosed with breast cancer, but by the time her disease is caught, it’s metastasized to her lymph nodes and liver. That’s Stage IV breast cancer, with a 5-year survival rate of 22%, according to the American Cancer Society.
Several months earlier, a routine mammogram revealed evidence of a small tumor in one breast without any sign that it had spread. Most likely, this would have been classified as Stage 1 breast cancer, with a remarkably high 5-year survival rate of 100%.
Now look at the difference: 100% drops to 22%. It’s a radical, tragic change and would certainly constitute harm if the failure to diagnose was the result of a violation of the standard of care. Note that this all depends on the type of cancer involved. Some malignancies, like colorectal cancers, grow very slowly in most patients. Which means that even a delay of years may have no demonstrable effect on the likelihood that a patient will survive.
Some diagnoses are late because patients aren’t aware of cancer’s common symptoms, or delay addressing their concerns. But many are caused directly by a doctor’s negligence.
The following are the top four contributing factors to a delayed diagnosis of cancer:
In 2008, researchers in Sweden found that men experience longer delays in diagnosis than women and that wealthy people don’t have to wait as long as the rest of us.
A cancer diagnosis forces us to face difficult questions. As experienced Philadelphia medical malpractice attorneys, we know well the world of doubt, anxiety, and insecurity into which cancer patients are thrown.
Many of the people we speak to begin questioning the choices they’ve made in the past, the time lost to anger and regret. But the future’s uncertainty also comes into view. As the reality of death approaches, the quality of life left for family and loved ones becomes a major concern.
That’s why patients who have been hurt by a delayed cancer diagnosis turn to Marciano & MacAvoy, P.C. We just want to help. We are here to support and guide you however we can, using our experience with delayed cancer diagnosis lawsuits to help ensure that justice is served.