Delayed diagnosis is a common medical mistake that forms the foundation for medical malpractice actions. Not all delayed diagnosis situations will, of course, equate to medical malpractice but many times this is the case. When a doctor or other medical provider fails to provide the requisite standard of care in evaluating a patient and their symptoms and using this information in the acceptable method to confirm a diagnosis, then they may be held liable for the damage the resulting missed diagnosis or misdiagnosis causes to the patient. Some mistakes regarding patient diagnosis cause more egregious damage than others. For instance, a diagnosis mistake regarding a cancer diagnosis can be devastating, and even fatal, to the patient.
Dangers of a Delayed Cancer Diagnosis
A cancer diagnosis can be difficult to ascertain, especially in its early stages. Doctors must be particularly adept at reading the subtle signs displayed by early cancer as the condition’s symptoms may be de minimis earlier on. However, once the cancer metastasizes or spreads to other parts of the body, then it may be more easily diagnosed. It may also, unfortunately, be more difficult to effectively treat.
Despite the subtlety of early cancer symptoms, a medical professional’s failure to properly observe said symptoms and identify other signs of a potential cancer in the patient can still lead to medical malpractice liability. If it is established that the medical professional had reasonable evidence that other, similarly situated, similarly trained medical professionals would take as evidence of cancer in a patient, then this could be considered medical negligence. If this oversight led to the patient suffering harm, then the medical professional could be held legally responsible for medical malpractice.
A delayed cancer diagnosis can have tragic consequences for a patient. This is due, in large part, to the fact that there is a key window of time in which cancer treatment will be most effective. The more time cancer is left undiagnosed, the bigger the opportunity for the cancer to grow in strength and spread to other parts of the body. Delayed diagnosis of cancer in a patient can mean extended and further invasive treatments for the patient. It can also increase the chances of the cancer proving fatal. So, a delayed cancer diagnosis can literally be the difference between life and death.
Treating physicians and other medical professionals tasked with a patient’s care need to be mindful of even the earliest symptoms of cancer. If not initially diagnosed, they should be mindful of signs of a delayed cancer diagnosis. For instance, if a patient’s symptoms have failed to improve despite their compliance with an active treatment plan put in place to address a different medical condition that may have presented with symptoms similar to cancer, then cancer may be the true underlying medical condition. If a medical professional failed to order appropriate testing considering the symptoms a patient presented with, then this may be another sign that there has been a delay in a cancer diagnosis. Miscommunications between different medical professionals can also signal a delay in cancer diagnosis, regardless of whether the medical professionals work in the same or different facilities.