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Cancer is a general name given to a group of diseases that causes cells to to divide uncontrollably and to grow abnormal. It is one of the leading causes of death worldwide- with over 14 million new cases and 8.2 million deaths in 2012.
Are You A Victim Of A Cancer Diagnostic Mistake In Maryland?
Cancer causes a breakdown in the normal activity of cells: cells lose their specialized function, abnormal cells survive when they should die, and abnormal cells divide uncontrollably- sometimes forming solid tumors. Cancerous cells are invasive and can spread to other parts of the body through a process called metastasis.
Cancer can be inherited or it can develop during your lifetime as a result of errors in cell division, damage to DNA, or other environmental factors like carcinogens (cancer-causing chemicals), obesity, poor diets, or lack of exercise. Gene mutations that lead to cancer are usually the result of multiple factors.
Cancer Diagnosis Errors In Baltimore
A variety of medical professionals may become involved in diagnosing cancer. Your primary care physician should always evaluate for signs and symptoms of cancer. A cancer specialist, known as an oncologist, may be consulted. There are three types of oncologists that warrant separate discussion when it comes to figuring out who is responsible for cancer related medical errors:
- Medical Oncologists: Medical oncologists are doctors that specialize in the diagnosis and non-surgical treatment of cancers.
- Radiation Oncologists: A radiation oncologist is part of the oncology family (surgical, medical, radiation) and is a doctor who specializes in treating cancer with radiation.
- Surgical Oncologists: Surgical oncologists are doctors that specialize in the surgical treatment of cancers and other malignant diseases.
Radiologists may be asked to interpret various radiographic studies. Surgeons may be involved to perform targeted surgical procedures. A patient’s whose cancer is not properly diagnosed may suffer significant medical expenses, lost wages, emotional pain and suffering, and serious physical harm. Patients who suffer from failed, missed, or delayed cancer diagnosis may have a diminished chance of effective treatment and a reduced chance of survival.
The attorneys at Gilman & Bedigian are skilled at litigating medical malpractice lawsuits and are dedicated to providing you and your family with the best legal advice and care. Gilman & Bedigian has a licensed physician on staff who offers critical medical insight into complex medical malpractice cases.
United States Cancer Statistics
The National Cancer Institute provides the following statistics:
- In 2015, an estimated 1,658,370 new cases of cancer will be diagnosed in the United States. 589,430 people will die from the disease.
- The most common cancers in 2015 are projected to be: breast cancer, lung and bronchus cancer, and prostate cancer.
- The number of new cases of cancer is 454.8 per 100,000 men and women per year.
- The number of cancer deaths is 171.2 per 100,000 men and women per year.
- Cancer mortality is higher among men than women (207.9 per 100,000 men and 145.4 per 100,000 women).
- Cancer mortality is highest in African American men (261.5 per 100,000) and lowest in Asian/Pacific Islander women (91.2 per 100,000).
- The number of people living beyond a cancer diagnosis reached nearly 14.5 million in 2014 and is expected to rise to almost 19 million by 2024.
- Approximately 39.6% of men and women will be diagnosed with cancer at some point during their lifetimes.
- In 2014, an estimated 15,780 children and adolescents ages 0 to 19 were diagnosed with cancer and 1,960 died of the disease.
- National expenditures for cancer care in the United States totaled nearly $125 billion in 2010 and could reach $156 billion in 2020.
There are over 100 types of cancer.
Symptoms of Cancer
Cancers do not always show symptoms in the early stages, and all cancers have distinct symptoms. Routine doctor visits can make cancer symptoms more noticeable. The following is a list of some general symptoms:
- Unexplained weight loss
- Fatigue that doesn’t go away with rest
- Persistent headaches
- Lump or mass under skin
- Changes in skin color or texture
- Bleeding or bruising
- Chronic pain
- Difficulty swallowing
- Sores that will not heal
- Unusual bleeding or discharge
Early detection of cancer can save your life. Regular visits to the doctor and self-exams can aid in detection. By the times symptoms of cancer appear, the disease may have spread (metastasized). Sometimes cancers will show no symptoms until advanced stages- as is the case with pancreatic cancer. Treating cancer early allows for less invasive treatment options, and allows patients a better chance at recovery.
According to the American Cancer Society, the 5-year survival rate for melanoma, or the percentage of people that live at least 5 years after diagnosis of melanoma, is 98%. That number drops to 16% if melanoma spreads to other parts of the body.
While there are general cancer symptoms, most cancer symptoms are specific to the type of cancer involved. Below are symptoms associated with the most common cancer types for men and women.
Symptoms of breast cancer include a change in the skin color or texture of the breasts, lumps or masses in the breasts, discharge from the nipple, pain in the breasts, and an increase in the size or shape of the breasts. Women with a family history of breast cancer- and obese women are at a greater risk for developing breast cancer.
Symptoms of lung cancer do not always appear right away. They often appear when the disease has advanced. They include: a persistent cough, shortness of breath, wheezing or other unusual sounds during breaths, persistent lung problems, coughing up blood or mucus, and chest pain. People who smoke, have a history of lung cancer in their family, or are exposed to certain chemicals have a greater risk of developing lung cancer.
Symptoms of colon cancer include anemia, change in bowel habits, blood in the feces, pain or discomfort in the abdomen, sudden weight loss, narrow stools, and a constant sensation of needing to have a bowel movement. People who have diets high in red meat intake and low in fruit/ vegetable intake, or who have an inflammatory bowel disease like Crohn’s disease are at a higher risk for developing colon cancer.
Symptoms include difficulty urinating, blood in urine, prostate pain, and an urge for frequent urination. Prostate cancer usually does not show symptoms until the disease is advanced. The American Cancer Society recommends prostate cancer screening for men over 50, and for men under 50 who are at risk. Men with genetic predispositions or with diets high in fat are at a greater risk for developing prostate cancer.
Symptoms of skin cancer include asymmetrical shapes of moles or birthmarks, discoloration of a patch of skin or spot on the skin, a spot on the skin that is increasing in size, and uneven and irregular borders of skin spots. People with fair skin, excessive sun exposure, moles, or a family history of skin cancer are at a greater risk for developing skin cancer.
According to the National Cancer Institute, screenings and early detection of cancer may include:
- A physical exam, including an understanding of the complete medical history of the patient
- Lab tests, including blood and urine samples
- Imaging studies of specific parts of the body
- Genetic tests (to assess predisposition and gene mutations)
- Endoscopy (procedures designed to visualize the inside of certain organs)
A cancer diagnosis is not always tragic, particularly if the disease is caught early. When the cancer is in its early stages, there are often viable treatment options for a full recovery. But, if medical professionals fail to properly diagnose cancer, patients lose out on delayed care is often associated with significant medical expenses.
Delayed, Incorrect, and Failed Diagnoses
If a doctor 1) fails to examine lumps, masses, or skin growths, 2) fails to order or complete the proper tests (e.g., mammograms or blood samples), or 3) uses faulty cancer screening devices, the results can be a misdiagnosis, delayed diagnosis that can seriously endanger the patient.
Diagnostic errors include:
- Failing to order the proper tests
- Failing to perform a thorough physical exam
- Misinterpreting tests
- Judgment errors
- Faulty equipment
- Failing to take timely action in response to signs and symptoms and other available medical data, including blood tests and radiographic studies
- Communication errors
- Failing to refer to a specialist
- Using incorrect diagnostic techniques
- Failing to follow-up with the patient when needed
Most cancer screening tests are non-invasive, but some involve surgical or other invasive procedures that present various risks of complications. Doctors who put their patients through these procedures based on wrong information can do more harm than good.
A delayed diagnosis occurs when the doctor is unaware of cancer in the patient and misses important diagnostic tests to discover the disease in a timely fashion. The doctor will eventually diagnose the patient, but the delay can lead to serious or fatal consequences. Doctors may have missed the medical history of the patient, may have failed to follow medical guidelines for diagnoses, relied too heavily on a negative test, or may have misinterpreted test results. Patients can be subject to increasingly invasive treatments (like radiation, chemotherapy, and surgery), and will be faced with serious emotional distress and loss of a normal, healthy life.
An incorrect diagnosis or misdiagnosis occurs when a doctor misinterprets or misidentifies the signs and symptoms of cancer. A misdiagnosis may take a patient down the wrong treatment path, causing increased medical bills, emotional stress, and a possible worsening of the patient’s physical condition. Sometimes, patients are misdiagnosed with cancer when they are actually cancer-free.
Failing to diagnose occurs when a doctor fails to provide a cancer diagnosis, allowing the cancer to potentially worsen and cause further harm and mental suffering to the patient. Failure to diagnose is often the result of the doctor’s failure to order appropriate cancer detection tests, including x-rays or biopsies, or the doctor’s failure to correctly interpret the test results.
Doctors should follow the appropriate standard of care in diagnosing cancer. The standard of care implies the degree of care that any other reasonable doctor with similar training and experience would employ under similar circumstances in diagnosing center.
Malpractice in Cancer Diagnosis
Not all failed, incorrect, and misdiagnoses are evidence of malpractice. Even if a doctor provides excellent care and does everything to her ability, diagnosis errors are possible. If a doctor appropriately assesses and screens the patient and the cancer remains undiagnosed, there is no evidence of malpractice. But, if a doctor is negligent in diagnosing cancer, and if that negligence leads to serious harm for the patient, that doctor can and should be held accountable.
In order to prove malpractice in a cancer diagnosis case the following must be true:
- A doctor-patient relationship existed; and
- The doctor acted in diagnosing the patient; and
- The doctor’s negligence caused a serious injury to the patient.
If you have been seriously harmed by a negligent cancer diagnostic error, you may be entitled to compensation.
Our attorneys understand the complexities and investigations that go into medical malpractice cases and have successfully represented many people around Maryland. We will not charge for a case unless we are successful in getting the desired results. Contact our offices today for a free consultation and to learn about your legal options.