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Failure to Diagnose Cancer: Can I Sue?

June 30, 2022  ·  By HM&M

Failure to Diagnose Cancer: Can I Sue?

Cancer is a devastating medical diagnosis that is estimated to affect 1.9 million Americans in 2022. It is no secret that the earlier cancer is detected, the better the chances are for the patient’s survival. Doctors categorize cancer in stages, providing patients information as to where the cancer is located and how much of it is within the body. This process allows physicians to determine a treatment plan. However, failure to properly diagnose cancer can lead to permanent injury or death.

When a medical provider fails to diagnose cancer because of negligence, a patient may be entitled to monetary damages which can help offset physical, emotional, and financial burdens. The first step in securing damages is to meet with a medical malpractice lawyer and share the details of your case.

The team at Hurley McKenna & Mertz has experienced the impact on a family when there is a failure to diagnose and properly treat lung cancer. Resources for coping with cancer can be found here.

What is Medical Negligence?

When a physician or medical provider’s actions, or lack thereof, fail to meet the standard of care, we refer to their behavior as medical negligence. When that negligence results in an injury or death, the case becomes medical malpractice.

In a medical negligence case, the patient must prove the medical provider was responsible for failing to properly diagnose cancer, and/or failing to properly treat cancer.  Because early detection in cancer patients is the difference between life and death, errors in diagnoses can be excruciating for families.

In order for a patient to file suit against a medical institution or physician for failing to diagnose cancer, the following must be considered:

  • Was the failure to properly diagnose or treat the cancer a violation of the standard of care?
  • Did the failure to properly diagnose or treat the cancer have an impact on the patient’s outcome?

Each state has a different statute of limitations that dictates when patients must file claims within the legal system. Be sure to inquire with your attorney about the Statute of Limitations in your state.

Why Would My Doctor Fail to Diagnose Cancer?

There are many reasons a doctor may fail to diagnose a patient with cancer. According to a study by John Hopkins, 37.8% of diagnostic errors were associated with misdiagnosed cancers. So, how does this happen? A few reasons include:

  • A doctor fails to properly read test results
  • A doctor fails to refer a patient to a specialist when needed
  • A doctor fails to facilitate a proper exam
  • A doctor fails to obtain thorough family medical history

Failure to diagnose cancer is so common that studies have been conducted to observe the phenomenon. In a study conducted by the National Library of Medicine, over 100 women who shared symptoms of or a diagnosis of breast cancer were evaluated. The results showed that 26 of the 102 patients experienced a process of care failure. The study states, 

“The most common failures occurred when physicians failed to perform an adequate physical examination, when patients failed to seek care, and when diagnostic or laboratory tests were ordered but patients failed to complete them.”

It was ultimately determined that clinicians were contributing to the breakdown in the diagnostic process.

What Damages Am I Entitled To?

If it has been confirmed that a physician or medical institution failed to diagnose you with cancer, you may be entitled to damages.

Damages are broken into two categories: economic and non-economic. Economic damages are also known as special damages, and they help to provide financial relief to victims of malpractice. Typically, the relief is used toward treatment or therapy for the patient. However, the relief can also help families who have lost income due to the patient’s medical diagnosis which has prevented them from accruing income.

Non-economic damages, or general damages, are harder to quantify. These damages are commonly referred to as “pain and suffering”. To receive non-economic damages, it is important you have a skilled medical malpractice attorney on your side, helping to coordinate witness testimony that can help a jury understand the impact the failed diagnosis had on the patient’s life.

Chicago Medical Malpractice Lawyers

Hurley McKenna & Mertz is known for its successes in medical malpractice cases, spanning over two decades. Our trusted attorneys build life-long relationships with our clients, helping them every step of the way. From misdiagnosis to failure to diagnose, our team works closely with medical professionals to aggressively pursue justice and secure full damages.

 If you are ready to discuss your family’s experience, we welcome you to contact us today for a free consultation. No one should have to experience the harm of a medical practitioner’s negligence, alone.


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