When it comes to the diagnosis and treatment of cancer, time is of the essence. Misdiagnosis or delayed diagnosis of certain types of cancer can be fatal. There are many different factors that can have an impact on a cancer diagnosis. Learning about commonly misdiagnosed types of cancer from a top medical malpractice lawyer can help you understand what is involved if you or a loved one is considering filing a claim.
Causes of Cancer Misdiagnosis
Early detection is crucial when treating almost any type of cancer—typically, the sooner you start getting treatment, the better your prognosis will be. Although the subject has not been studied extensively, according to an article published in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA), cases of missed, delayed, or incorrect diagnosis are common, and may occur anywhere from 10% to 28% of the time.
Some factors that may be involved in misdiagnosis or delayed diagnosis of cancer include:
- Ignoring a patient’s complaints or symptoms
- Neglecting to order proper diagnostic tests or biopsies
- Pathology testing errors
- Failing to identify lumps or other irregularities, such as those detected in breast exams
- Incorrect reading of diagnostic testing results
- Failure to recognize common signs of cancer
- Not following-up with the patient or test results
- Wrongly identifying a cancerous tumor as benign
- Failing to refer a patient to a specialist
In some cases, a patient may be wrongly diagnosed with cancer and may undergo unnecessary, costly, invasive treatment. If this has happened to you or a loved one, a good injury attorney who handles medical malpractice can assess your case and help you determine the options that may be available for recovering compensation for a misdiagnosis and unnecessary treatment.
Types of Cancer That Are Commonly Misdiagnosed
Lymphoma—This type of cancer often goes undetected because many of the symptoms are associated with less serious conditions. For example, enlarged lymph nodes, fever, fatigue, weight loss and night sweats are often seen in patients with the flu or common cold.
Breast cancer—According to the Susan G. Komen Foundation, approximately 16% of breast cancer cases are not detected by mammograms. This delay in detection and diagnosis can result in a patient having to undergo more invasive treatment such as surgery. Conversely, misdiagnosis of benign tumors or cells that will not result in cancer can lead to patients receiving drastic treatment for no reason.
Colorectal cancer—Colon cancer often begins as a noncancerous tumor called a polyp. If doctors fail to recommend or perform a colonoscopy on high-risk patients or those 50 and older, these polyps may develop into cancer.
Lung cancer—The second-most common cancer in the United States, lung cancer can be difficult to detect in the early stages. It may be misdiagnosed as asthma, bronchitis, pneumonia, COPD, or even tuberculosis. Although lung cancer is highly treatable at the early stages, the survival rate is less than 10% if it progresses to stage four.
Skin cancer—Another commonly misdiagnosed cancer is melanoma, which can be fatal. Doctors may fail to recognize irregular skin markings and growths, which can enable melanoma to progress fairly rapidly. In addition, when biopsies are taken, pathologists in the lab may not accurately identify some types of skin cancers.
It is always a good idea to get a second opinion if you are diagnosed with cancer or believe you may have cancer. If you or a loved one has been misdiagnosed or has suffered due to delayed diagnosis, contact a medical malpractice attorney.