Can I File a Medical Malpractice Lawsuit for a Cancer Misdiagnosis?

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Cancer Misdiagnosis

The majority of cancer misdiagnosis lawsuits involve cases in which a radiologist, pathologist, or another health care provider failed to properly diagnose the cancer. However, a surprising number of misdiagnosis cases involve a false diagnosis, when the patient is told that he or she has cancer, when in fact, there is no evidence of cancer in the patient’s body. Unfortunately, in addition to coping with the devastating diagnosis, many patients go through the ordeal of chemotherapy, radiation, and other awful cancer treatments for nothing. Although the patient finding out that they do not have cancer is certainly a relief, these aggressive treatments can wreak havoc on the body. Patients who have gone through the ordeal of a cancer diagnosis, only to find out that they endured the emotional trauma and the potentially debilitating treatments for nothing, are urged to contact a lawyer experienced in medical malpractice as soon as possible.

Unfortunately, misdiagnoses are shockingly common in the United States. According to Healthline, approximately 12 million people are impacted by a cancer misdiagnosis each year, and as many as 80,000 die of complications associated with the misdiagnosis. Sadly, cancer is a disease that affects one in two men and one in three women. Considering how common the disease is, it should come as no surprise that it is one of the most commonly misdiagnosed health conditions. In fact, according to the American Cancer Society, certain types of cancer are misdiagnosed at rates as high as 61 percent.

What can Cause a False Cancer Diagnosis?

A false diagnosis usually occurs when a diagnostic test produces a false-positive result. Although health care providers rely on sophisticated screening tests such as mammograms, CT scans, MRIs, and ultrasounds to detect the presence of cancer, the equipment is so sensitive that it may produce a positive test result when the patient does not actually have cancer. For example, today’s mammograms are able to detect small lesions that mammograms of the past would not have picked up. These lesions are often diagnosed as cancer. According to a report by the New England Journal of Medicine, over 30 percent of all breast cancers are misdiagnoses. The researchers estimate that over 140,000 women are falsely diagnosed with breast cancer each year.

The other main factor that contributes to a false diagnosis is human error. When a health care provider misinterprets the results from a screening test or a biopsy, he or she may make an incorrect cancer diagnosis. This is particularly true if the pathologist or radiologist does not specialize in a particular type of cancer. Studies have shown that there is a greater likelihood of a false cancer diagnosis if the specialist who is reviewing the test results does not understand the complexities of diagnosing different types of cancers such as breast, lung, or pancreatic cancer. A general pathologist who is not an expert in any one type of cancer may be less likely to notice the subtleties of certain types of cancer such as lung, pancreatic, or breast cancer and may diagnose a condition as cancer when it is not.

According to one report, pathologists identify abnormal precancerous cells in breast cancer biopsy specimens only approximately 50 percent of the time. Roughly 17 percent of these cells are misdiagnosed as cancer. Unfortunately, these patients are often forced to endure chemotherapy, radiation, and surgery. In addition, although these treatments are meant to kill the cancer cells, they can also cause severe damage to healthy cells. While the benefits associated with these treatments usually outweigh the risks when the patient is fighting for his or her life, the same cannot be said if the patient does not have cancer. However, there is currently no way to completely eliminate human error. Doctors are diagnosing cancer in much the same way they did 50 years ago, said an MD Anderson Cancer Center doctor. Despite the advancements in screening technologies, the methods of interpreting the results have stayed the same.

What if I was the Victim of an Intentional Misdiagnosis?

The most shocking and disturbing cases involve doctors who intentionally, albeit falsely, diagnose patients with cancer for their own financial gains. These deceptive and cruel health care providers take advantage of their patients’ trust by convincing them that they have cancer and then pressuring them to start treatment right away so that the doctor can collect more money from the patient’s insurance company. Some patients who are falsely diagnosed will insist on getting a second opinion for such a devastating diagnosis. This will usually reveal that the patient does not have cancer. Other, more trusting patients will accept the diagnosis and proceed with the recommended treatment. Unfortunately, it is not until the patient has gone through chemotherapy, radiation, surgery, and other cancer treatments that they discover they never had cancer. Although these cases usually turn into insurance fraud claims, there have been cases in which an intentional cancer misdiagnosis has led to a medical malpractice case. These types of cases are rare, but they are particularly egregious, and the health care provider should face the consequences of his or her behavior.

What are the Side Effects of Cancer Treatment?

Patients who actually have cancer know that the treatment for the disease can be just as brutal as the disease itself. The side effects from chemotherapy and radiation can cause a range of debilitating health issues that can range in severity based on the type of cancer, how far the disease has progressed, and the overall health of the patient. When a patient has been falsely diagnosed, having to ensure these side effects unnecessarily is particularly devastating. The following are examples of some of the most common side effects associated with cancer treatment:

  • Hair loss
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Infections
  • Extreme fatigue
  • Constipation or diarrhea
  • Pain
  • Loss of appetite
  • Urinary or bladder problems
  • Nerve problems
  • Trouble with memory or concentration
  • Anemia
  • Skin and nail problems
  • Sores in the mouth and throat
  • Changes in sexual function
  • Bleeding and bruising
  • Lymphedema, the buildup of fluid in the lymph nodes
  • Edema, the buildup of fluid in the body tissues

Cancer treatments can also cause a range of long-term health complications. For example, exposure to chemotherapy and radiation can put patients at an increased risk of getting other types of cancer. For patients who did not have cancer to begin with, the unnecessary treatments can actually increase the risk of getting cancer. Other significant complications include disfigurement if the patient had a mastectomy after being misdiagnosed as having breast cancer. An unnecessary surgery for a prostate cancer misdiagnosis can cause a loss of bladder control and urinary incontinence.  In addition to the physical impact of a false cancer diagnosis, patients often suffer from depression, anxiety, and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), particularly if they had to endure grueling treatment, only to find out that it was completely unnecessary.

How Do I File a Medical Malpractice Lawsuit?

If a patient has been falsely diagnosed with cancer, he or she may pursue legal action against the health care provider responsible for the diagnosis. In most cases, the hospital or health care facility cannot be held liable because most doctors are independent contractors rather than employees of the hospital. In order to hold the doctor liable for the false diagnosis, the patient must be able to prove that the health care provider failed to demonstrate the level of skill that another doctor with similar experience would have provided, and that the substandard care caused the patient harm. The following are examples of harm that a false diagnosis can cause:

  • The patient was exposed to a harmful course of treatment that was not necessary.
  • The patient endured unnecessary surgical procedures that caused scarring or disfigurement.
  • The unnecessary treatment exposed the patient to a range of health complications.
  • The unnecessary treatments were associated with an increased risk of death.

Oftentimes, a qualified medical expert will be required to provide testimony about the details of the case, including whether he or she believes that negligence was involved.

What Is the Statute of Limitation for a Medical Malpractice Case?

If a patient intends to file a medical malpractice lawsuit in the state of Maryland, he or she must do so within five years after the injury happened, or within three years after the patient discovered or reasonably discovered the injury, whichever comes first. If the patient files a medical malpractice lawsuit after the deadline has passed, the claim will likely be denied and the case dismissed.

Baltimore Medical Malpractice Lawyers at LeViness, Tolzman & Hamilton Assist Patients Who Have Been Falsely Diagnosed with Cancer

If you or a loved one endured the physical and emotional trauma of a cancer diagnosis, only to find out that you never had cancer, it is in your best interest to contact the Baltimore medical malpractice lawyers at LeViness, Tolzman & Hamilton as soon as possible. We understand how devastating a cancer diagnosis can be, particularly if you had to endure painful, debilitating cancer treatments, only to find out you did not have cancer. Our dedicated and compassionate legal team will determine who is responsible for the misdiagnosis and ensure that you receive the financial compensation you deserve for the ordeal. We will not stop fighting for you until you are completely satisfied. To schedule a free, confidential consultation, call us today at 800-547-4LAW (4529) or contact us online.

Our offices are conveniently located in BaltimoreColumbiaGlen Burnie, and Prince George’s County, where we represent victims throughout Maryland, including those in Anne Arundel CountyCarroll CountyHarford CountyHoward CountyMontgomery CountyPrince George’s CountyQueen Anne’s CountyMaryland’s Western CountiesSouthern Maryland and the Eastern Shore, as well as the communities of CatonsvilleEssexHalethorpeMiddle RiverRosedale, Gwynn OakBrooklandvilleDundalkPikesvilleParkvilleNottinghamWindsor MillLuthervilleTimoniumSparrows PointRidgewood, and Elkridge.