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cancer misdiagnosis as medical malpractice

Cancer misdiagnosis occurs more frequently than most would like to believe. In fact, cancer misdiagnosis is one of the “big three” types of medical malpractice and misdiagnosis-related claims. Those who are the victims of cancer misdiagnosis should know what their options are and what they should expect when filing a lawsuit.

What is Cancer Misdiagnosis?

Cancer misdiagnosis can occur in one of two ways: when a medical practitioner either fails to properly identify cancer when appropriate signs are present, or when they misidentify cancer as another disease or condition. Both types of cancer misdiagnosis can be incredibly harmful to patients.

By failing to identify or misidentifying cancer, a medical practitioner places his or her patients at risk and does not perform appropriate due diligence for their profession. In many cases, victims of a cancer misdiagnosis can pursue compensation via lawsuit. 

New York Cancer Incidence Rates

According to the New York Department of Health (NYSDOH):

  • Over 110,000 New Yorkers learn they have cancer every year
  • New York was fifth highest among 50 states for cancer rates as of 2016
  • 35,363 New Yorkers died of cancer in 2016
  • Over 1 million living New Yorkers have ever been diagnosed with cancer

Access to medical care is one of the most important determinants “of cancer-related morbidity and mortality” according to the NYSDOH. In other words, proper medical treatment makes a huge impact on whether or not someone will survive cancer.

Why Does Cancer Misdiagnosis Occur?

Cancer misdiagnosis can occur for a number of reasons, including:

  • A doctor may not order appropriate tests to detect cancer early enough
  • A radiologist or another professional may misread someone’s test results. This can result in a failure to diagnose or a delayed diagnosis
  • A doctor may mistake the symptoms of cancer for the symptoms of another condition
  • A doctor may fail to listen to the complaints of a patient. Such cases can be particularly harrowing or uncomfortable for a patient since their lived experience was disregarded

Failure to Diagnose Cancer

A failure to diagnose is often seen as the worse of two mistakes. It is the most egregious error. Though sometimes terrible in its outcome, a misdiagnosis can be explained. In some cases, there may be a reasonable explanation that a medical professional could misdiagnose cancer as another disease or condition if certain symptoms are present.

But failure to diagnose is dependent on there being evidence in place that points clearly to cancer. For instance, an x-ray might be taken and show signs of cancer in a patient’s lung. If a doctor deliberately or negligently ignores this evidence, they’re essentially committing medical malpractice.

Types of Cancer that are Misdiagnosed

Unfortunately, all types of cancer may be misdiagnosed by medical professionals. More common cancers are often misdiagnosed because of their similarity to other conditions, while rare cancers may be misdiagnosed because they require specific tests that may not be ordered or performed correctly.

Types of cancers most commonly misdiagnosed include:

  • Breast cancer
  • Bone cancer
  • Thyroid cancer
  • Testicular cancer
  • Skin cancer
  • Lymphoma
  • Cervical and ovarian cancer
  • Prostate cancer

How Often is Cancer Detected in Early Stages in New York?

The earlier cancer is diagnosed, the better the odds of the victim surviving and/or recovering. Thus, when a cancer diagnosis is missed or delayed, the consequences can be devastating.

The New York State Department of Health indicates that some types of cancer are diagnosed later on average than others, even accounting for advances in medical technology.

  • Oral cancer is diagnosed early at a rate of 33.8% according to the most recent statistics from the NYSDOH in 2016, compared to 44.2% in 1976
  • Colorectal cancer is similar, at rates of 36.8% compared to 38.8% in 1976
  • Cervical cancer is only caught early at a rate of 47.9% today compared to 57.5% in 1976

Considering that an average of 764 people under the age of 64 die from cancer every year in the Bronx alone, it’s imperative that doctors do their due diligence and catch cancer as well as they can.

Consequences of Cancer Misdiagnosis

Cancer misdiagnosis carries serious consequences for the victims. If treatment is not received promptly, many types of cancer can metastasize or otherwise spread throughout the body and cause irreparable harm. Mortality rates for cancers that are not caught early skyrocket compared to cancer that is caught early.

Furthermore, even cancer that is caught and defeated “late” often carries side effects. More intensive and longer treatments are often required to restore patients to health, which carry increased medical costs, greater pain and suffering, and disability or loss of quality of life in some circumstances.

Does Cancer Misdiagnosis Count as Medical Malpractice?

Cancer misdiagnosis may be considered medical malpractice depending on the circumstances or details of a specific incident. For medical malpractice to have taken place, negligence must play a factor in the mistake of the medical professional.

A good example of cancer misdiagnosis being a medical malpractice incident would be a doctor failing to order a certain test to check for cancer when that same test is a common step or preventative measure that responsible medical professionals perform all the time. This is blatant negligence and disregard for the safety of one’s patient. Such an incident could lead to a medical malpractice trial if the victim sued.

Pursuing a Cancer Misdiagnosis Lawsuit

Someone who discovers they’ve been the victim of a cancer misdiagnosis has several options. They may attempt to pursue compensation by suing the doctor and/or medical office responsible for the misdiagnosis. If the case is one of medical malpractice, negligence must be proven. Knowledgeable New York attorneys can prove invaluable to guaranteeing victims the greatest compensation possible for their recovery or ongoing medical treatment.

Lavern’s Law

Lavern’s Law was implemented by New York State in 2018, and sets a new statute of limitations for medical malpractice cases involving cancer misdiagnosis. Under the new statute, plaintiffs have 2 ½ years from the point of “reasonable discovery” of said malpractice to bring the action to court. The action must also be started within seven years of the malpractice itself.

Damages to NY Cancer Misdiagnosis Victims

Because cancer treatment and associated costs can be quite high, the damages awarded to victims of a cancer misdiagnosis can be high as well and include:

  • Costs of past and future medical treatment
  • Coverage for ongoing medical costs, especially those pertaining to cancer treatment
  • Damages for pain and suffering
  • Damages for loss of life, if the case is brought forward or continued by the victim’s family
  • Compensation for loss of income or support

Contact Cancer Misdiagnosis Lawyers Today

The best way to win a cancer misdiagnosis case and receive the compensation necessary to recover or receive proper treatment is to contact Sobo & Sobo. Their office is ready and willing to take a cancer misdiagnosis case and help prove that one’s cancer could and should have been diagnosed properly much earlier. 

Cancer misdiagnosis victims can contact them today for a free consultation by calling 855-468-7626, or by visiting one of their New York City or Hudson Valley locations.