What to Know About Cancer Misdiagnosis or Delayed Diagnosis Cases

Doctor in dark glasses with blue background holding orange letters that spell 'misdiagnosis in one hand and yellow letters spelling 'missed diagnosis' in the other

Although it’s the second leading cause of death in the U.S, not all cases of cancer are fatal. Early detection is critical for managing the disease and achieving the best possible chance of survival, regardless of the type of cancer. Unfortunately, if a physician fails to diagnose, or misdiagnoses, a patient with cancer, the consequences can cost lives. Even a delayed diagnosis may be the difference between survival and death. 

If you or someone you love has suffered because of a doctor’s missed or incorrect cancer diagnosis, you could be a victim of medical malpractice—and you may deserve compensation. Here’s everything you need to know about pursuing your cancer misdiagnosis or delayed diagnosis case.

What Is Cancer Misdiagnosis or Delayed Diagnosis?

In the US, roughly 1.8 million new cancer cases were diagnosed in 2020 alone. Unfortunately, many people are also victims of a doctor’s misdiagnosis or delay in diagnosis. 

When a cancer diagnosis is delayed or missed, it may allow a patient’s disease to metastasize, which could require chemotherapy, radiation therapy—which can affect organ and tissue function—and bone marrow transfusions which would be unnecessary if not for the metastasis. In more dire cases, the cancer may have spread too much to even be able to save a patient’s life. The potential causes of missed or delayed cancer diagnosis include:

  • Failure to detect a cancerous lesion in a biopsy
  • Incorrectly diagnosing a cancerous mass as non-cancerous
  • Failure to order proper diagnostic testing
  • Incorrectly classifying the aggressiveness of a cancerous mass
  • Improper handling or interpreting of specimens 
  • Failure to properly screen an at-risk patient

A false cancer diagnosis also has serious consequences for a patient and their family. In this case, a person could be forced to endure unnecessary procedures such as chemotherapy and radiation, which are painful, expensive, and dangerous to that person’s health. 

What Do You Need to Prove in a Cancer Misdiagnosis or Delayed Diagnosis Case?

In any medical negligence case, the plaintiff (injured party) bears the burden of proving that a doctor or other healthcare worker is liable for the injury and associated damages and suffering. In order to prove that a doctor is responsible for a delayed or incorrect diagnosis of cancer, you must be able to prove the following:

  • Duty. This element requires demonstrating the existence of a doctor-patient relationship, and that your doctor accepted the responsibility for providing an accepted standard of care—the level of care that all patients are reasonably expected to receive. 
  • Breach of duty. Next, you’ll need to prove that the doctor acted negligently during treatment, which led to the delayed or missed cancer diagnosis. The doctor will be questioned to determine whether he or she violated the industry’s standard of care. You will also need to prove through expert opinions that another doctor of the same competency would not have allowed the medical negligence to occur. 
  • Injury and damages. This step is necessary to prove that the cancer misdiagnosis or delayed diagnosis caused you or your loved one harm, with evidence of all damages, including economic losses (such as medical expenses) and non-economic harms (such as pain and suffering).
  • Causation. Finally, it will be necessary to prove that the harms and losses were directly caused by the doctor’s breach of duty.

How Are Cancer Misdiagnosis or Delayed Diagnosis Cases Resolved?

Each medical malpractice lawsuit is different, but the filing and litigation of medical malpractice cases are complex and can take several years to complete. The basic steps include:

  • Building your case. If a demand letter is not met with a satisfying proper response by the doctor or insurance company, the lawsuit will continue. This will require gathering all necessary information (medical records, bills, etc.) that will help your malpractice attorney establish basic facts and determine a value for your case.
  • Sending a demand letter. Before filing a malpractice lawsuit, your medical malpractice lawyers may reach out to the doctor, hospital, or insurance company with a demand letter. It will demonstrate why the doctor or medical provider is responsible for the negligent failure to diagnose that caused the cancer misdiagnosis or delayed diagnosis, as well as how much compensation will be needed as a result.If a demand letter is not met with a satisfying proper response by the doctor or insurance company, the process will continue.
  • Filing a lawsuit. This happens when your malpractice lawyer formally files the case, which designates you as the plaintiff and your doctor as the defendant, under the eyes of the law. The court will process the lawsuit and send it to the defendants, who will have a specific number of days to respond.
  • Entering the discovery phase. During this stage of litigation, each party will request pertinent records and information from each other to build the case on both sides. As the plaintiff, you will be deposed (questioned under oath) by the doctor’s attorney. The doctor will be deposed by your attorney, who will ask questions about the standard of care you received in order to prove negligence. 
  • Reaching a settlement. A settlement is often preferable to a trial because it means the doctor or hospital has agreed to pay certain compensation, whereas a trial is expensive and the outcome can be unpredictable. However, if the defendant does not agree to a fair settlement, the case will proceed to trial. If the judge and jury decide in favor of you, the plaintiff, it is likely that you will be financially compensated for damages. 

An Experienced Legal Firm That Supports You and Your Family

If you’re in need of a medical malpractice attorney who is experienced and compassionate, you’ve come to the right place. At Janet, Janet & Suggs, we’ve dedicated our lives to fighting for victims of medical malpractice. We’ve been winning successful settlements and jury verdicts for people in their time of need for 40 years. If you or a loved one has suffered because of a cancer misdiagnosis or delayed diagnosis, we’ll help you understand your rights and seek the fair compensation you are owed, so that you can focus on healing. Contact us today to get started.

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