A delayed cancer diagnosis may prompt a medical malpractice claim

Misdiagnosis that delays the start of cancer treatment may be fatal. A local cyclist is organizing a race, the Dana Point Grand Prix, to bring more awareness to mesothelioma and treatment of the cancer. The cyclist lost his father at the beginning of last year after his father was initially misdiagnosed.

A cancer misdiagnosis also changed the life of a North Carolina woman. She suffered from severe fatigue and back pain that became so excruciating she needed to use a wheelchair. The initial diagnosis was fibromyalgia and chronic fatigue problem. She was also prescribed hormone replacement medication for hot flashes.

The real cause of the symptoms was breast cancer, which had travelled to her spine. Unfortunately, the hormone replacement had fed the breast cancer. She received the correct diagnosis two years after initially seeking treatment. At that point, the cancer was stage IV and terminal with a life expectancy of three years. Earlier detection and treatment could have improved her chances.

Prevalence of diagnostic errors

Medical safety experts estimate that in 10 and 20 percent of cases, diagnoses are missed, delayed or incorrect. Studies from the past few years are drawing attention to the issue. A study of errors in a Texas hospital system found many errors related to common diseases that had the potential to cause "considerable to severe harm." Another research team at Johns Hopkins analyzed medical malpractice claims over more than 20 years and found that almost a third of the claims involved diagnostic errors.

Misdiagnosis can occur in a number of ways. The increasingly fragmented health system may be one cause. Travelling between various clinics for tests and procedures means more room for an incorrect test or miscommunication of findings. Time pressures on doctors allow less time to think through a diagnosis and eliminate all possible diagnoses.

Malpractice May Begin with a Missed Diagnosis

Failure to timely diagnose cancer could be grounds for a medical malpractice claim. When a misdiagnosis delays treatment, a medical malpractice attorney will need a complete set of certified medical records. Keeping notes during or after medical appointments is also helpful. Also, make sure to get all the recommended diagnostic tests and attend any follow-up appointments. An extensive review of all the records is usually required to determine whether a possible malpractice claim exists.

A cancer diagnosis is difficult to fully comprehend and internalize. If you were diagnosed with another ailment and it delayed starting cancer treatment, contact a medical malpractice attorney to discuss your individual circumstances.