Misdiagnosis or Failure to Diagnose Cancer and Other Serious Conditions
Leading New Jersey Medical Malpractice Lawyers Uphold Legal Rights for Patients with Missed and Wrong Diagnoses
Medical malpractice cases do not always involve a doctor making a surgical or prescription error. Sometimes, a doctor can cause harm by doing nothing at all. If your doctor fails to diagnose a dangerous condition, lack of treatment might cause the condition to worsen or possibly become life threatening. The failure to diagnose cancer or its misdiagnosis can seriously impact your health. For conditions that require early detection, this type of medical malpractice can prove beyond devastating.
The medical malpractice attorneys at Donald G. Targan & Associate have more than 45 years of combined experience fighting for the rights of patients injured by the negligence of healthcare professionals. We understand how frustrating a misdiagnosis or delayed diagnosis can be, and we will work with you to ensure that you get the compensation you deserve. In one case involving a misdiagnosis of cancer and wrongful death, we were able to help the victim’s family recover $850,000 in damages after a jury trial. When the impossible happens and you are facing the consequences of a misdiagnosis or failed diagnosis, you may be entitled to seek compensation from the negligent physician responsible.
What is Considered a Failure to Diagnose?
Failure to diagnose cancer occurs when a doctor fails to identify a disease or condition that is affecting the health of a patient. The doctor may dismiss symptoms or fail to test for some conditions. Failure to diagnose often results in a condition growing worse.
Once the symptoms have grown more obvious and the patient’s conditions worsens, the doctor may then make a correct diagnosis, but valuable time has been lost. In the case of a cancer misdiagnosis, for example, a few months without treatment could be the difference between life and death.
What is Misdiagnosis?
Misdiagnosis occurs when a doctor considers a patient’s symptoms and comes to the wrong conclusion about the condition or disease. For example, appendicitis might be misdiagnosed as indigestion or stomach cramps, because both have similar symptoms. While it is less common than a failed or delayed diagnosis, misdiagnosis also has the potential to be harmful to the patient.
If you are misdiagnosed, not only will your actual ailment go untreated, but you may be treated for something you do not have. You could be given medications or recommended procedures that may potentially be harmful to you, since you do not actually have the condition for which the treatment is meant. For example, if you receive a lung cancer misdiagnosis when you really are experiencing a much less threatening disease like bronchitis, you may endure exhausting chemotherapy treatments that can further damage your health.
Most Commonly Misdiagnosed Cancers
Cancer is among the most commonly misdiagnosed conditions in the U.S. today. Failure to diagnose cancer often occurs when it is still in the early stages and treatable. A delay like this, even a small one, can give the cancer time to progress into more dangerous and malignant stages.
Sometimes, by the time the doctor correctly diagnoses cancer, it is too late for treatment. The most commonly misdiagnosed types of cancer include:
- Lymphoma – This blood cancer affects the lymph nodes, spleen and thymus gland in the neck. Symptoms include fever, coughing and chest pain, so it is often dismissed a minor ailment.
- Breast cancer – Breast cancer misdiagnosis can be deadly, since it is known to spread quickly to other parts of the body. Breast cancer tumors can also be misdiagnosed as benign cysts.
- Sarcomas – These cancerous tumors attack connective tissue, like muscles and nerves. Sarcomas are particularly prone to misdiagnosis when they occur in internal organs.
- Melanoma – Skin cancer can be difficult to diagnose without a proper biopsy, which is not always ordered. If melanoma is not diagnosed, it has the potential to become deadly.
- Unknown primary – This oddly named cancer occurs when malignant cells are discovered in the body, but no point of origin can be established. Cancer of an unknown primary site can be difficult to detect and treat for the very reason that doctors cannot find where it started.
Any cancer that is treated incorrectly or not treated at all due to the wrong diagnosis can be very damaging. Although your doctor is responsible for diagnosing and treating you properly, ensuring that your medical history is correct and getting a second opinion are ways to help protect yourself from an incorrect or delayed diagnosis.
Is Failure to Diagnose Cancer or Misdiagnosis of Cancer Considered Malpractice?
A misdiagnosis is not always grounds for a medical malpractice case. However, if a doctor was negligent in his or her diagnosis, or failed to follow all the procedures a reasonable medical professional would have followed when determining how to treat your condition, you may have grounds for a medical malpractice case.
For a diagnosis failure or misdiagnosis to be considered negligent under medical malpractice law, three conditions have to be met:
- A doctor-patient relationship has to exist. Most malpractice lawsuits do meet this criteria, as it only requires that you sought a doctor’s professional help.
- The doctor was negligent. This is a slightly vague requirement to file a malpractice lawsuit. Generally, if other doctors who specialize in the same field would have promptly and correctly diagnosed you, your doctor can be said to be negligent. Not ordering tests to rule out other diagnoses before starting an incorrect treatment is one common form of medical negligence that can lead to complications from a wrong diagnosis.
- The doctor’s negligence caused you harm. Sometimes, a delayed diagnosis has no real effect on your health. For example, a doctor failing to diagnose a pollen allergy may mean a few extra months of discomfort for you, but your condition is not worsened by the delay and your overall health is not threatened. Failure to diagnose something like cancer or a heart attack, on the other hand, can lead to serious, harmful consequences for your well-being.
If you can prove all three of those conditions, you likely have grounds for a medical malpractice claim. Filing a medical malpractice lawsuit for a misdiagnosis allows you to seek damages for any past and further medical expenses you have as a result of a worsened condition. If you have lost a loved one as a result of an incorrect diagnosis, you may be able to seek compensation in a medical malpractice wrongful death lawsuit to cover your loved one’s funeral expenses, loss of income and other damages your family has suffered.
Learn More About Medical Malpractice Cases in a Free Consultation with Our New Jersey Misdiagnosis Attorney
If you or someone you love has been the victim of a negligent misdiagnosis or failure to diagnose, our team of experienced medical malpractice attorneys may be able to help you get the compensation you deserve. We will answer your medical negligence questions and stand by your side throughout the legal process, ready to take your claim to court if a fair settlement agreement cannot be reached. You or your loved one deserve justice, and obtaining this justice on your behalf is our commitment to you.
Our primary offices are located in Atlantic City and Cape May, but we are happy to accept clients from Del Haven, Whitesboro and surrounding Middle and Lower Township. Contact our medical negligence lawyers today to set up a free initial consultation.