Misdiagnosis or failure to diagnose cancer can prove harmful or even fatal for patients.
Imagine being told that you have cancer – something potentially devastating to hear – but that your doctor had previously misdiagnosed you with a different condition, and that your treatment options have been severely limited as a result. You have inadvertently, on the trusted advice of your physician, wasted precious time- time during which the disease has spread or become more difficult to treat. Whereas before you may have had less invasive options like removing a single lump or undergoing a short course of targeted radiation, your only available course of treatment might now be something as invasive as a mastectomy or a full round of potentially debilitating chemotherapy.
On the opposite side, now see if you can imagine being told that you have cancer, undergoing invasive procedures to rid yourself of the disease and then finding out the original diagnosis was a mistake. All the financial expenses you have incurred, the rehabilitation you suffered through, the physical and mental scars you will have for the rest of your life: none of it was necessary, since you never had cancer at all. Irreparable harm has been done to your body and your psyche, and all for nothing. Shockingly, this situation is surprisingly common, particularly for women, as it is estimated that women receive as much as $4 billion annually in treatment following incorrect initial breast cancer diagnoses.
Can you imagine the conflicting emotions you would be feeling in either of these situations? Would you be angry? Afraid? Worried about the future? In shock at everything you have lost and could still lose in the days, weeks and months to come?
Misdiagnosis is all too common
Some sources estimate that as many as a quarter of all medical malpractice claims are the result of misdiagnosis or the failure to diagnose a condition, particularly various types of cancer (including breast, prostate or lung cancer as well as other forms of the disease). The problem with misdiagnosing or failing to diagnose an invasive condition like cancer – especially an aggressive type that could quickly spread to other places in the body – is that time is often of the essence when it comes to treatment options. If caught early, many types of cancers have a high survivability rate; patients who receive appropriate treatment at that time can go into remission and live for years with little or no ill effects following diagnosis.
If a diagnosis is delayed, however, many of those same cancers could prove fatal. Consider, for example, certain types of thyroid cancer. According to the American Cancer Society, this is the most rapidly increasing type of cancer in the country, with more than 62,000 new cases estimated for 2015. If it is detected soon enough, the thyroid gland (or the diseased sections) can be removed, a patient can undergo minimal radiation or chemotherapy treatment and can go on to live a healthy life. If it is not diagnosed promptly, however, cancer in the thyroid could spread throughout the body, proving fatal in a relatively short period of time (sometimes a matter of months, depending on the underlying type of thyroid cancer involved and the overall health of the patient).
Regardless of whether you were misdiagnosed, a diagnosis was delayed, or you underwent unnecessary treatment because a doctor mistakenly told you that you had cancer, you may have the right to bring a medical malpractice claim against a negligent physician. To learn more about your rights, speak with a skilled attorney at the Louisville law office of Dolt, Thompson, Shepherd & Kinney, PSC.