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Cancer Diagnosis Delays

Being diagnosed with cancer is perhaps the most feared diagnosis which we can face. About 450 out of every 100,000 people are newly diagnosed with cancer each year, according to the National Cancer Institute. About one third of those newly diagnosed will pass away as a result. While cancer is an unforgiving disease, perhaps the most important factor which decides life or death in cancer diagnoses is when the disease is caught and treated. If you or a loved one was victimized by a delayed diagnosis of cancer, contact the medical malpractice attorneys at Altman & Altman LLP today.

According to the British Medical Journal (BMJ), 80 percent of patients who are diagnosed with cancer are referred to a cancer specialist after one or two consultations. However, 20 percent of patients who visit a primary care physician with “relevant symptoms” of cancer visit three or more times before being referred.

Such situations can result in critical time lost between cancer forming and the diagnosis of cancer, which can delay treatment and result in the cancer further developing – and such a delay can quite literally be the difference between a cancer being reasonably treatable and a cancer becoming terminal.

The BMJ found that, in situations where a patient had to go to a primary care physician five or more times before being diagnosed, this correlated to about 96 days between the first visit and the diagnosis. Such a length of time is significant, especially in regards to a person who believes they may have cancer.

The BMJ further broke down types of cancer and the percentage of patients that required three or more consultations before being diagnosed with the disease. The data showed that, while some forms of more easily detectable cancer (such as breast cancer and skin cancer) rarely required that many consultations, more complex cancers like ovarian and pancreatic cancer often took that many consultations to confirm.

What Constitutes Negligence in Diagnosing Cancer?

As the comprehensive BMJ study shows, diagnosing cancer on a timely basis is hardly an exact science. Not every case of a delayed cancer diagnosis can be chalked up to malpractice, since it has to be proven that a doctor could have reasonably diagnosed the disease earlier than they did.

However this does not mean that such cases are impossible to settle or win outright. If it can be showed that a doctor ignored a patient’s history – which may have been rife with cancer diagnoses of relatives – that is a perfect example of negligence causing a delay in a diagnosis. Doctors may also ignore certain red flag symptoms if they believe the patient is suffering from something other than cancer. This, too, may be argued as malpractice given the right conditions.

Malpractice may not be limited to a primary care physician. A radiologist may have misread an x-ray, or a surgeon may have not properly removed a benign tumor, allowing the cancer to continue spreading. In any of these cases, a malpractice suit may be an option.

The only way to know for sure whether or not your specific case is fit for a malpractice suit is to confer with an experienced medical malpractice attorney. As we have advocated for our clients in Boston, Cambridge and throughout Massachusetts for the last 50 years, the attorneys at Altman & Altman LLP are well-versed in medical malpractice cases, and can provide unparalleled legal advice during your most trying times.

Cancer is hard enough to face without having to also face the reality where it may have been prevented. We will ascertain whether or not you may be eligible for payments stemming from medical malpractice that led to a delay in your diagnosis.

Call for a free consultation to go over the details of your case today at 617.492.3000 or toll-free at 800.481.6199. We are available 24/7.

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