Can I Sue My Doctor for Missing My Cancer Diagnosis?
Fact checked by Clayton Hasbrook J.D. | Updated on November 5, 2015
Being told you have cancer is some of the worst news any patient can ever have to hear from their doctor. However, the earlier a patient learns about their cancer, the better chance they have of beating it. When a doctor fails to make a timely diagnosis, or tells a patient that a malignant tumor is benign, the result is that the undetected cancer continues to grow and spread, diminishing the patient’s chance of survival. Even if the patient is able to beat the cancer after receiving a delayed diagnosis, they will likely have to spend considerably more money on aggressive medical treatment, placing a heavy financial burden on themselves and their loved ones. If your doctor failed to diagnose cancer, you may be able to get compensated for your pain, suffering, and medical expenses.
National and Oklahoma Cancer Statistics
Cancer is one of the most widely diagnosed medical conditions in the United States, and around the world. The National Cancer Institute (NCI), which is part of the National Institutes of Health (NIH), estimates that about 1,658,370 new cases will be diagnosed in 2015. This number represents a decrease of about 7,170 cases from the 1,665,540 diagnoses which were estimated in 2014.
The NCI estimates that among new cases projected for 2015, some of the most common diagnoses will be breast cancer, lung cancer, colorectal cancer, leukemia, melanoma, bladder cancer, pancreatic cancer, kidney cancer, prostate cancer, and non-Hodgkin lymphoma. African-American men have the highest statistical risk of dying from cancer, while Asian/Pacific Islander women are in the lowest risk category.
The CDC and NCI have teamed up to create state cancer profiles. According to the cancer profile for Oklahoma, the incidence rate of cancer is slightly lower than the national incidence rate: 450.8 per 100,000 as compared to 453.8 per 100,000, respectively. However, while its incidence rate is slightly below the national average, Oklahoma’s cancer mortality rate is significantly higher: 190.6 per 100,000, compared to the national mortality rate of 171.2 per 100,000. In Oklahoma, the type of cancer most likely to be fatal is lung cancer (58.4 per 100,000), while thyroid cancer has the lowest mortality rate (0.4 per 100,000).
Prostate cancer has the highest incidence rate of all cancers in Oklahoma (128.8 per 100,000), while esophageal cancer is the least common (4.6 per 100,000). Oklahoman men are considerably more likely to develop cancer than women, with incidence rates of 512.9 per 100,000 and 406.5 per 100,000, respectively. Adults aged 65 and older are at the highest risk (2,040.7 per 100,000), while people under 50 have a dramatically lower incidence rate of 97.1 per 100,000.
Do I Have a Medical Malpractice Case Based on my Missed Diagnosis?
Thanks to ever-improving medical technology, more and more people are beating cancer and going on to live long, healthy lives. However, early detection – and intervention – will always be key to maximizing a patient’s long-term chances of survival.
Unfortunately, even some of our most long-practiced, widely-utilized methods of cancer detection miss a sizable number of cases. For instance, the NCI reports that mammograms miss about one fifth of all breast cancer diagnoses, while a study published this year in Annals of Gastroenterology noted that sigmoidoscopies missed a frightening 50% of colorectal cancers. While each form of cancer is medically distinct in terms of detection methods, incidence rates, mortality rates, and the frequency with which missed diagnoses occur, the bottom line is that missed and incorrect diagnoses are more commonplace than anyone would like to believe.
In fact, a missed cancer diagnosis is one of the most common reasons people file medical malpractice lawsuits. In a recent study published in BMJ Open – an online version of BMJ, formerly the British Medical Journal – researchers examined over 7,150 international papers on malpractice claims. Here’s what the study found:
“Missed diagnoses were the most common source of malpractice claims, accounting for between a quarter (26%) and almost two thirds (63%) of the total. And the most common consequence of this in the claims filed was death, ranging from 15% to 48% of claims made for missed diagnoses. Among adults, cancer and heart attack were the most commonly missed diagnoses in the claims made.”
The study also noted that bone fractures, appendicitis, and ectopic pregnancies frequently went undiagnosed in adults. In children, cancer and meningitis were more common.
Oncologists and other doctors have a duty of care which requires them to take every possible step to reduce the risk of foreseeable death or injury to a patient. When a negligent doctor misses a diagnosis that would have been caught by another doctor in the same field (e.g. oncology), the cancer patient potentially has a strong malpractice case. It is always worth speaking to an experienced personal injury lawyer after a missed diagnosis of any kind, even if you don’t know whether you have grounds to file a lawsuit.
Hasbrook & Hasbrook is committed to holding negligent doctors accountable for the pain and suffering their careless actions inflict upon cancer patients. We are prepared to aggressively litigate your case in the pursuit of maximum compensation for you and your family.
We understand how sensitive talking about cancer can be. But whenever you’re ready to pick up the phone, our legal team will be here to support you and answer your questions. Please don’t hesitate to call us at (405) 698-3040, any time of day or evening, for a free legal consultation. We handle cases in Oklahoma City and the surrounding area.