Posted on 09/16/2021

Cancer Misdiagnosis: What You Need to Know

Cancer Misdiagnosis: What You Need to Know

Cancer is one of the three most grievous diseases to be misdiagnosed. Of these ‘Big Three’ diseases (vascular events and infections being the other two), cancer takes the lion’s share of these which overall accounts for about 75% of serious harms to patients.

How frequently can a cancer misdiagnosis happen? The National Academy of Medicine (NAM) reported that a majority of people will experience a minimum of one diagnostic error in their lifetime, sometimes with devastating consequences. 

Patients can take precautions to avoid a medical misdiagnosis. But suppose someone suspects a case of cancer misdiagnosis has happened to them, what do they need to know? 

It’s important to learn as much as possible about your options. Today we’ll go over what a cancer misdiagnosis is, common types of misdiagnosed cancers, and what to do if this has happened to you. 

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What Is Cancer Misdiagnosis?

A cancer misdiagnosis is similar to any kind of medical misdiagnosis but with three subtle differences.

The first significant difference for a cancer misdiagnosis is the complexity of cancer itself. 

There are over a hundred different types of this disease. While there may be similarities in cancers in general, the treatment prescribed will need to be specific to the type of cancer present. Misclassifying the cancer type can have devastating consequences during treatment.

The second issue with a cancer misdiagnosis is the time factor. Although any illness should be treated as soon as possible, an NCIB study showed early detection of certain cancers significantly increased the chances of a positive outcome.

In the report, breast, head, neck, colorectal, melanoma, and testicular cancers had the best results when detected in the early stages. However, any delay in the proper diagnosis of the patient’s cancer can impact the overall outcome, whether it was a result of malpractice or not.

The third difference with a cancer misdiagnosis is the emotional factor.

Cancer can be a special source of fear and anxiety in America today. 

With 1.8 million new cancer diagnoses in 2020 and over 600,000 deaths, most Americans could easily have personal experience with the effects of this dreaded disease. The emotional impact of facing a possible cancer battle, or being given a false diagnosis of cancer can be traumatic.

 How Does a Cancer Misdiagnosis Happen?

There are several ways a cancer misdiagnosis can happen.

Cancer diagnosis and treatment is a complicated process. 

From false positives or negatives during an initial screening procedure to mistakes made during recovery — errors and malpractice could happen at several stages throughout the patient’s journey.

Some examples of these errors include:

  • A careless oversight in the patient’s medical history 
  • A failure to consider worrying symptoms during the early stages resulting in costly delays
  • A medical professional missing the signs of cancer entirely
  • Missteps during treatment, such as damage during surgery
  • Prescription errors

Simple administration oversights could also have deadly consequences. For example, failure to facilitate a referral to an appropriate specialist. Or failing to adequately follow up on a crucial test could set back treatment progress or even result in death.

Common Types Of Misdiagnosed Cancer

Four of the most commonly misdiagnosed cancers include:

  • Colorectal cancer
  • Pancreatic cancer
  • Breast cancer
  • Lung cancer

Colorectal Cancers 

Human bowels are susceptible to several different types of inflammatory diseases, many of which can mimic the symptoms of colorectal cancer. 

These conditions include but are not limited to IBS (Irritable Bowel Syndrome), hemorrhoids, and ulcerative colitis.

Young people are especially susceptible to a cancer misdiagnosis in this area.

Pancreatic Cancers

Many of the digestive side-effects of someone with pancreatic cancer can lead professionals down the wrong diagnostic path

Diabetes, IBS, gallstones, peptic ulcers, acid reflux, inflammation of the pancreas, or pancreatitis are all conditions that can occur in tandem with pancreatic cancer. 

Medical staff may stop looking once they have identified the side-effect, missing the crucial cause of their symptoms.

Breast Cancers

One in eight women in the U.S. are likely to develop some kind of invasive breast cancer at some point in their lifetime. It’s easy to appreciate how many cancer misdiagnoses can happen here. 

Other conditions can easily be mistaken for breast cancer because of similar symptoms like benign, non-cancerous cysts. 

Fibrocystic breast disease and breast inflammation are also common conditions that a professional can confuse with true cancer.

Lung Cancers

Of all the total diagnostic errors that lead to death or serious disability, 37.8 percent of these cases were associated with cancer. Lung cancer was the most common type involved.

How can lung cancers be so prone to misdiagnosis? In 90% of cases, it seems that chest radiographs were the weak link, according to a 2017 study. 

The same study from above suggests radiologists can find it challenging to distinguish lesions from the complex anatomical structures of lung regions on radiographs. That means it almost always comes down to human error.

What To Do If a Cancer Misdiagnosis Happens To You

While no amount of cash settlement can make up for the preventable damages or death due to malpractice, it can ease some of the hardships endured by families who shoulder the burden of these terrible events.

Cancer treatments can run in the hundreds of thousands of dollars. Not to mention the loss of wages inflicted on the patient and the family caregivers who put their lives on hold to battle for a loved one. Add to that any long-term health care costs, and families could be looking at a hefty bill. Those costs need to be paid by someone.

If there was medical malpractice involved, you may be entitled to compensation for the following:

  • Medical bills, both current and future
  • Rehabilitation
  •  Long-term care expenses
  • Long-term disability
  • Loss of wages, both current and future
  • Loss of companionship
  • Reduction in the enjoyment of life
  •  Pain and suffering

If you think you might have been a victim of cancer misdiagnosis, contact the professionals at Grover Lewis Johnson. 

Backed by 25 years of experience, the Medical Malpractice Team at Grover Lewis Johnson has the proven track record needed to litigate your claim in the best manner possible.

Call for a free consultation to voice your concerns to our compassionate and knowledgeable team. 

We’ll give you an honest assessment of your situation and tell you if we believe you have a case worth pursuing. And remember, we don’t get paid until we win your case.

Photo by Gustavo Fring from Pexels