How Often Is Cancer Misdiagnosed?

male doctor speaking with female cancer patient
August 21, 2018
Legally Reviewed By Attorney Rand Spear, Esq.

A cancer diagnosis of any kind is scary. In 2017, nearly 1.7 million people received cancer diagnoses, and it’s expected that in 2018 close to 610,000 people will die as a result of cancer. These numbers are astronomical, and they make cancer the second leading cause of death in the U.S., only behind heart disease. If you or a loved one has been diagnosed with cancer, the news was likely devastating. Imagine how much worse though, if you find out that the diagnosis could have been made sooner, improving the prognosis and perhaps even saving your loved one’s life.

How Often is There a Delay in Diagnosing Cancer?

According to studies published by the National Coalition on Health Care, it is estimated that cancer misdiagnoses are made anywhere from 15 to 28 percent of the time, with lymphomas having the highest incidence of misdiagnoses, followed by breast cancers and sarcomas. That percentage represents a huge number of cancer patients who are misdiagnosed, and it is often preventable.

When cancer is misdiagnosed (which typically means that there is a delay in diagnosing, as cancer is progressive), it means that a patient received the wrong treatment or no treatment at all. Obviously, either of these can have catastrophic results and even lead to death.

How is Cancer Misdiagnosed?

The most common type of misdiagnosis happens when there is a delay in diagnosing cancer. Misdiagnosis occurs when someone diagnosed with cancer believes there is a reason to ask if the diagnosis should have been caught earlier. Since cancer is a progressive disease, the patient will likely have a better prognosis if diagnosed and treated earlier rather than later. Therefore, a delay in diagnosis can result in an outcome that is significantly different than it could have been. This delay could be considered malpractice.

Some cancers are detectable through different screening tests before a patient exhibits any signs or symptoms. These types of cancers include colorectal cancer, prostate cancer, lung cancer, cervical cancer and breast cancer. One way that a misdiagnosis can occur after recommended screening is by not evaluating the test, scan, or slide correctly. Another way that misdiagnosis occurs is if the screening test performed was done incorrectly. In the case of colorectal cancer, if the bowels are not properly prepared, and the test is done regardless, it is likely to be read inaccurately. In this case, the test should be administered again. If it isn’t, and colorectal cancer becomes diagnosed later, it could be considered medical malpractice.

For cancers that do not have screening tests, most diagnoses happen when the patient begins to have signs and symptoms. At that point, previous medical history should be looked at by an expert. An expert will help evaluate if there may have been x-rays, scans, or other tests that were not read correctly or provide other evidence of cancer that was overlooked. Another thing to look at in determining whether a misdiagnosis has occurred is if the patient had additional return trips to the doctor with the same complaint, but still no cancer diagnosis, only to find out later that was in fact cancer. Both of these types of errors that result in a delayed diagnosis could be considered medical malpractice.

Find Help for Your Cancer Misdiagnosis

If you find yourself asking if your cancer, or the cancer of a loved one, should have been detected earlier, your first step should be to contact a cancer misdiagnosis attorney. Determining whether or not a diagnosis could have been made in time to make a significant difference in the prognosis takes the expertise of an experienced medical malpractice attorney who understands cancer misdiagnosis cases. Philadelphia attorney, Rand Spear, can help and support you throughout your case.

All of our cancer misdiagnosis cases are handled on a contingency basis, so there will never be a cost to you unless there is a financial recovery. Please contact us at 215-985-2424 for a free consultation and review of your case.


Media Contact:

Medical Malpractice Attorney Rand Spear

(T): 215-985-2424


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