Cancer is one of the leading causes of death in the United States. However, many types of cancer are treatable when detected and diagnosed early. Unfortunately, delayed cancer diagnosis occurs more often than it should and can lead to the disease progressing, treatment complications, and a worse patient prognosis. With most types of cancer, delayed cancer diagnosis makes treatment options less likely to succeed.
Cancer Metastasis (Spreading)
Cancer is a disease in which abnormal cells divide, grow uncontrollably and spread to other parts of the body if left untreated. Abnormal cell growth can lead to malignant tumors that can affect any part of the body. When caught early, treatments such as surgery, chemotherapy and radiation therapy can help stop the spread of cancer cells (known as metastasis). Once cancer metastasizes, or spreads to parts of the body beyond where the initial tumor developed, it is more difficult to treat.
Cancer metastasis often requires more intense treatments. These treatments can be costly, invasive, and cause the patient immense pain and suffering. The patient may require a limb amputation due to the spread of cancer, for example, or suffer permanent scarring, disfigurement or disability due to aggressive treatments. These are all complications that can often be avoided with early cancer detection because the treatment plan may not have to be as aggressive.
Ineligibility for Surgery
A delayed cancer diagnosis in Philadelphia can lead to larger tumor size to the point where surgery to remove the cancerous tumor is not possible. Delay can also allow cancer to spread and become metatstatic, causing the patient to lose the opportunity for a cure. The illness will be classified as a later stage cancer, such as Stage 3 or Stage 4. In later stages, a patient’s treatment options are more limited than in Stages 1 and 2. The patient may no longer be eligible for surgery, as removal of the tumor(s) may not be a viable option. Limited treatment options mean poorer chances of survival and an increased mortality rate.
Once cancer goes undetected and spreads, it becomes less likely that treatment will succeed. Late-stage cancers that have already metastasized are substantially more difficult to treat than cancers that are caught early. A delayed cancer diagnosis can worsen the patient’s prognosis and survival rate – potentially reducing the patient’s life expectancy by months or even years. The consequences of a delay in cancer diagnosis include increased mortality rates and more adverse survival outcomes. These are devastating consequences for the patient.
Diagnosing cancer early can literally be a matter of life and death. The delayed diagnosis of cancer can interfere with a patient’s eligibility for life-saving treatments, such as surgical intervention before the cancer spreads. If caught too late, the cancer may be deemed untreatable, whereas early detection could have potentially saved the patient’s life. Where the delayed diagnosis of cancer led to a patient’s premature death, the type of lawsuit that may be filed is called “wrongful death.” In a Philadelphia wrongful death lawsuit, the decedent’s heirs may recover financial compensation for the death of their loved one, including damages for lost earning capacity, the decedent’s pain and suffering, medical expenses and funeral and burial costs.
Filing a Medical Malpractice Claim for a Delayed Cancer Diagnosis
Physicians have a responsibility to adhere to certain standards of care when treating and diagnosing a patient. The proper tests should be conducted and interpreted to detect cancer in a patient as early as possible. Failing to suspect cancer and order the appropriate tests, or failure to correctly interpret or act on test results, could lead to a dangerous delay in diagnosing cancer in a patient. Delayed diagnosis is a form of medical malpractice that could make the victim able to recover financial compensation.
If you or a loved one suffered harm due to a delayed cancer diagnosis, contact a Philadelphia medical malpractice attorney at Youman & Caputo for a free case evaluation. Bringing a civil claim against a physician (such as an oncologist, radiologist, or surgeon) or another health care provider for negligently failing to diagnose cancer in a timely manner could provide justice and financial compensation to the victim or victim’s family.