What to Do in the Event of Cancer Misdiagnosis


Cancer misdiagnosis is a major problem today, with one recent survey conducted by the National Coalition on Health Care (NCHC) and Best Doctors, Inc., finding that oncologists significantly underestimate how frequently they incorrectly diagnose cancer in patients. The estimate of cancer misdiagnosis may be as high as 28%, and even one instance is too much considering the implications of going without treatment.

Misdiagnosis in general is one of the most common causes of malpractice cases, leading many to seek out an attorney specializing in personal injury in Pittsburgh or the city in which they happen to live.

What should you do if your healthcare provider misdiagnosed your cancer?

Understand That Not all Misdiagnoses Qualify as Medical Malpractice

There is no law that requires physicians to make an accurate diagnosis ever time. Medical industry standards do require that they do their best to come up with the appropriate diagnosis based on the facts at hand.

How Misdiagnosis Can Occur

Cancer can be misdiagnosed in many ways, such as failure to recommend cancer screenings, failure to thoroughly perform a physical examination, failure to take a detailed history, failure to recognize early symptoms and warning signs, failure to recommend tests due to financial concerns, communication errors, or failure to refer to the appropriate specialist, among other situations.

The Elements That Constitute Medical Malpractice

A patient-doctor relationship. In order for a medical malpractice case to be considered, the patient must have had a relationship with the healthcare professional at the time of misdiagnosis. A delay in a diagnosis can result from a patient not seeking out medical attention in time. In that situation, there would not be a doctor-patient relationship. If the patient’s regular physician was off-duty and another doctor was involved, a misdiagnosis wouldn’t be considered malpractice either.

Negligence. A patient must be able to show that the healthcare professional wasn’t reasonably competent in diagnosing the cancer. This is typically the most challenging element to prove and may require testimony from a “reasonable and prudent” medical expert.

Harm was suffered. For medical malpractice to have occurred, the patient must have suffered damages, proving that the misdiagnosis resulted in harm. For example, if cancer is terminal and a timely diagnosis would still not have changed the prognosis, the doctor wouldn’t be liable, even if there was negligence involved in misdiagnosing the condition. Simply being misdiagnosed doesn’t mean you can be compensated, especially if a timely second opinion is obtained, and treatment begins without any consequences suffered.

What to Do If You Think There is a Medical Malpractice Case

In order to stay vigilant on your medical condition, you should always ask questions from your oncologist. If after reading this you believe there is a case for medical malpractice, while no amount of money can make up for an unnecessary premature death or permanent disability, it can help mitigate some of the suffering that can result. An early death often leads to financial hardship for families with lost wages and high healthcare costs. Victims may be entitled to have current and future medical bills paid, as well as compensation for things like pain and suffering, burial expenses, loss of companionship, current and future loss of wages, and more.

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