Misdiagnosis or Delayed Diagnosis of Cancer

Cancer is among the leading causes of death in the United States, and is expected to kill over half a million US residents in 2009. Timely discovery and treatment is critical for a cancer victim to survive. In cases where a hospital or doctor fails to act appropriately in screening for or recognizing signs of cancer, they may be putting patients at great risk and can be held liable for any later injury, illness or even wrongful death.

Doctors Liability for Misdiagnosis

A misdiagnosis or Delayed Diagnosis of cancer occurs more often than most people might suspect, but only a very small number of these patients are aware that there are legal remedies available for them to seek compensation. Contrary to popular misconception, most cases of medical malpractice go without legal action; only about 12% of victims of medical negligence file claims.

Most Common Forms of Cancer

The following are some of the most common forms of cancer:

Cancer in Men

Cancer in Women

Prostate Cancer

Breast Cancer

Lung Cancer

Lung Cancer

Colon and Rectum

Colon and Rectum

Urinary Bladder Cancer

Uterine Corpus

Skin Cancers



Melanoma of the Skin

Kidney and Renal Pelvis Cancer

Thyroid Cancer


Ovarian Cancer

Pancreatic Cancer

Pancreatic Cancer

These are based on figures provided by the American Cancer Association that can be found here.


Discovery and Diagnosis of Cancer

Cancer may initially be found during regular medical check-ups and screenings, which then lead to further tests to make a definitive diagnosis.

Cancer diagnosis usually requires one or more medical tests such as blood tests, CT scans, endoscopy, or x-rays. Upon discovery of potentially cancerous cells or a tumor, a biopsy will be done to obtain a sample of the tissue for pathological testing and confirmation.

Treatment of Cancer

The treatment of cancer depends largely on the timeliness of discovery and the type of cancer. In general, a cancer patient has the best chance of recovery if the cancer is found early on, before being allowed to spread to adjacent areas and other organs. In early cases, surgical removal of the cancer may be possible, and no further need for treatment.

When the cancer is diagnosed at a later stage, and has already spread beyond the area of origin, it becomes more likely necessary to treat the patient through one or more of the following means:

  • More Aggressive Surgery
  • Chemotherapy
  • Radiation Therapy
  • Immunotherapy

All of these means are inherently less precise and more invasive, damaging noncancerous cells and causing much additional sickness and pain for patients.

Compensation for Victims of Delay in Diagnosis of Cancer

Patients, or family members of loved ones lost to potentially preventable cancer are provided a legal option for compensation for injury and damages. Tort laws are in place to ensure that victims can recover money to cover the costs of medical expenses, loss of income due to illness, loss of future earning ability, loss of chance of a cure, compensation for pain and suffering, and more.

In cases where a loved one is lost to cancer or other illness that could have been prevented had a doctor or hospital acted in time, further compensation may be recoverable for wrongful death.

Who Can Seek a Medical Malpractice Lawsuit?

Determining whether a case of delay or misdiagnosis of cancer has legal merit can be difficult. Put simply, it must be shown that a doctor or hospital staff member failed to perform his/her duty within a level of care that is standard in the medical community. This “standard of care” is the way a doctor is supposed to perform, based on how other doctors would have performed in the same situation.

Anyone who thinks he/she, or a loved one, was misdiagnosed or diagnosed too late, should talk to an experienced medical malpractice attorney to find out if there are options for compensation for the injuries and losses. Medical malpractice law is very complex, so it’s important to talk to an attorney with experience handling these types of cases. Many attorneys will offer a no-cost consultation to offer guidance, answers and advice to victims of doctor or hospital malpractice.

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