What Is Cancer Misdiagnosis?


People with serious medical conditions can suffer worsening symptoms and a poorer prognosis when doctors fail to properly diagnose them or wrongly diagnose them with a different health issue. In the case of cancer, diagnostic failures are especially dangerous. Many types of cancer are treatable when they are diagnosed in earlier phases, but if the cancer is not caught until a later stage, the prognosis might be poor. Understanding cancer misdiagnosis and how it can occur is critical to help prevent this type of medical error. If your cancer was misdiagnosed, here is what you need to know from the medical malpractice attorneys at Raynes & Lawn.

Understanding Cancer Misdiagnosis

A cancer misdiagnosis might mean that you have cancer that your doctor failed to diagnose or have been diagnosed with cancer when you do not have it. Diagnostic errors are fairly common, but when they occur with cancer, patients can suffer serious harm. Doctors make diagnostic errors when they fail to accurately diagnose patients’ medical conditions in a timely manner or to communicate their diagnoses to patients.

Harm From Cancer Misdiagnosis

If you have cancer, receiving an early diagnosis and starting treatment can greatly increase your chance of survival. When a doctor fails to diagnose cancer in its early stages, the delayed diagnosis or missed diagnosis can greatly affect your prognosis. Cancer that is undetected can spread throughout the body and might become untreatable. If your cancer was misdiagnosed and caused your condition to worsen, you might be entitled to pursue compensation for your losses through a medical malpractice claim.A cancer misdiagnosis can also occur when your doctor wrongfully tells you that you have cancer when you do not. False cancer diagnoses can result in you undergoing unnecessary treatments that are both painful and costly. Chemotherapy and radiation can result in permanent damage when they are given to someone who doesn’t need them. Cancer treatments are also very expensive, and your insurance might not fully cover the costs.

Why Do Cancer Misdiagnoses Occur?

Cancer is more difficult to detect in its early stages. However, early diagnoses can greatly improve a patient’s prognosis. Doctors should carefully review their patients’ medical history and listen to them when they describe their symptoms. They should then complete appropriate tests to help them diagnose cancer or differentially diagnose another condition that might cause similar symptoms.


Some examples of why a cancer misdiagnosis might occur include the following:

  • Failing to get a patient’s medical history, including a family history of cancer
  • Failing to order appropriate tests
  • Missing a cancerous tumor in a biopsy
  • Diagnosing a cancerous tumor as benign
  • Incorrectly grading a cancerous tumor’s aggressiveness
  • Failing to listen to and acknowledge the patient’s complaints
  • Mishandling, misreading, or misinterpreting specimens

Why Do Cancer Misdiagnoses Occur?

How A Medical Malpractice Lawyer Can Help

An experienced medical malpractice lawyer can review your medical records and consult a medical expert to determine whether your doctor’s diagnostic error rose to the level of malpractice and caused you further harm. If the doctor engaged in medical negligence and caused your injuries and losses, you might be entitled to pursue compensation through a malpractice lawsuit.


Your lawyer will work with a medical expert to determine the applicable standard of care your doctor was expected to meet and whether your doctor’s care fell below the expected standard. He or she will then analyze whether the doctor’s misdiagnosis caused your injuries and if you suffered calculable damages. Cancer misdiagnosis cases are complex and require knowledge of the law and of disease progression. You also must file a certificate of merit when you file a lawsuit certifying that your case has been reviewed by a medical expert who believes your doctor was negligent and caused your injuries. These reasons are why it is critical to work with a medical malpractice lawyer who is experienced in handling cancer misdiagnosis claims.

Are All Cancer Misdiagnoses Malpractice?

While cancer misdiagnoses are serious, not all of them will amount to medical malpractice. Doctors must provide care that meets the standard of care that would be provided by reasonable doctors in the same geographic area and fields of practice under similar conditions. For example, a general practitioner would not be held to the same standard as an oncologist.


Determining the standard of care for the doctor who misdiagnosed you requires you to consult a medical expert to have the expert review your medical records. Your attorney will work with a medical expert to analyze what happened and to determine whether the doctor’s care met the expected standard or if it amounted to negligence.


Your attorney will also need to determine whether the misdiagnosis resulted in any harm to you. For example, if your doctor failed to diagnose your cancer, but you got a second opinion within a few days and received an accurate cancer diagnosis, the initial misdiagnosis likely would not have caused harm or losses. By contrast, if your doctor failed to diagnose cancer despite your complaining about symptoms for months, it might amount to negligence if your cancer worsened, greatly reducing your chances of survival.

Damages In A Cancer Misdiagnosis Lawsuit

The potential damages in a cancer misdiagnosis lawsuit will vary based on the severity of your resulting injuries, your economic and non-economic losses, and other factors.


Some of the types of damages that might be available include the following:

  • Medical expenses, including future medical costs to treat your cancer
  • Past and future wage losses
  • Lost rights to an inheritance in wrongful death claims
  • Future lost contributions the deceased victim might have contributed over his or her expected lifespan in wrongful death cases
  • Physical pain and suffering
  • Disability
  • Emotional trauma
  • Reduced enjoyment of life
  • Loss of consortium and guidance in wrongful death claims
  • Punitive damages in egregious cases

Your attorney can help you understand the types of damages that might be available under the circumstances of your case.

Consult An Experienced Malpractice Lawyer

If you were harmed because of a cancer misdiagnosis, you should speak to the attorneys at Raynes & Lawn. We have fought for the rights of negligence victims for more than 50 years and have recovered billions of dollars for our clients. Call us for a free consultation at 1-800-535-1797.


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