Misdiagnosis or Failure to Diagnose Cancer: Dangerous Medical Malpractice

Misdiagnosis or failure to diagnose cancer is a fairly frequent basis for medical malpractice lawsuits – and if either has happened to you, you may have legal recourse. Here’s what you need to know.

Misdiagnosis or Failure to Diagnose Cancer: Dangerous Medical Malpractice

We literally trust medical professionals with our lives, so when a doctor fails to diagnose a life-altering and potentially fatal condition, it’s earth-shattering. However, failure to diagnose or misdiagnosis of cancer isn’t necessarily medical malpractice – sometimes errors are normal, and although they’re unfortunate, they’re unavoidable.

Even the most experienced and knowledgeable doctors can make mistakes, so how does misdiagnosis or failure to diagnose cancer become medical malpractice?

Generally speaking, misdiagnosis or a failure to diagnose becomes medical malpractice when the patient can prove that:

  • You had a doctor-patient relationship
  • The doctor failed to live up to the standard of care in diagnosing your condition
  • The doctor’s failure to diagnose (or misdiagnosis) actually and proximately caused an actual injury

What is the Standard of Care?

The standard of care is a level of care that an average, prudent provider would practice in a similar situation. Essentially, it’s how another doctor with similar qualifications would have managed your care under the same or similar circumstances. If another doctor would’ve caught your cancer or treated it appropriately, you may be able to show that your doctor breached the standard of care (failed to live up to it) in order to win damages in a medical malpractice lawsuit.

Related: How to prove medical malpractice in California

What About Causation?

Causation can be difficult to prove. In a medical malpractice lawsuit, you have to show that the doctor’s failure to diagnose – or the doctor’s misdiagnosis – caused you an actual injury. Your attorney will have to prove that the misdiagnosis or failure to diagnose cancer caused it to get worse than it would have if the doctor had made the correct diagnosis in the first place.

What Happens if Your Cancer is Misdiagnosed?

If your cancer is misdiagnosed, you can suffer serious consequences. Typically, because cancers worsen over time, you may miss valuable treatment options – or the cancer may become too widespread or too aggressive for successful treatment. Likewise, you may require more aggressive treatments (or simply more treatments) than you would have if the doctor had appropriately diagnosed your cancer in the first place. Some people even lose their lives because of misdiagnosis or a failure to diagnose.

Related: Everything you need to know about personal injury cases in California

What Percent of Diagnoses Are Wrong?

The National Academy of Medicine reported – back in 2015 – that most people will receive an incorrect or late diagnosis at some point in their lives. It’s one thing if a doctor misdiagnoses a common cold; it’s entirely another if it’s a life-threatening condition such as cancer. The National Academy of Medicine estimates that about 12 million people per year (that’s about 5 percent of all adults who seek outpatient care) are misdiagnosed.

What is the Most Common Misdiagnosis?

Cancer isn’t one of the most commonly misdiagnosed medical issues – but these are:

  • Stroke
  • Irritable bowel syndrome
  • Carpal tunnel syndrome
  • Lupus
  • Lyme disease
  • Multiple sclerosis

What About Missed Diagnosis?

Missed diagnosis occurs when a doctor or another healthcare professional fails to diagnose a medical condition. It’s different from misdiagnosis, which occurs when a doctor or another healthcare professional comes up with the wrong diagnosis for a medical condition.

For example, if you go to the doctor with a sore throat and the doctor says there’s nothing wrong with you, but it turns out that you have strep throat, the doctor missed the diagnosis. On the other hand, if you go to the doctor with a sore throat and the doctor tells you that it’s just allergies, but it turns out that you have strep throat, that’s misdiagnosis.

Related: Zantac lawsuit FAQ

What Happens if a Doctor Fails to Diagnose Cancer?

Failure to diagnose cancer can cause serious – and in some cases, irreparable – harm. Some cancers can be easily treated if caught early, but as time progresses, they become harder to treat and can even be fatal.

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Do You Need to Talk to a Lawyer About Misdiagnosis or Failure to Diagnose Cancer?

If your doctor misdiagnosed you – or if he or she failed to diagnose your cancer – you may have legal recourse. Call us right away at 818-230-8380 to speak with a caring, compassionate and knowledgeable attorney. We’ll evaluate your case for free and tell you what kind of options you have.


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