How Often is Cancer Misdiagnosed?

Aug 29, 2021 Medical Malpractice

Posted by: Kisling, Nestico & Redick, LLC

Hearing that you have cancer is life-altering news. But before you prepare for the worst or assume you are in the clear, you should be sure the diagnosis is correct. Although doctors and nurses are knowledgeable in their field, even they can make mistakes. This results in undergoing either unnecessary treatment or not receiving any treatment depending on the failed diagnosis.

Healthcare professionals misdiagnose cancer in more than one out of four cases. Boston Magazine cited a study by the British Medical Journal Quality and Safety Journal that reported 28% of cancers are misdiagnosed.

Top 5 Misdiagnosed Cancers

According to The National Law Review, the top five misdiagnosed cancers are:

  • Lymphoma, both Hodgkin and non-Hodgkin
  • Breast cancer – this includes over-diagnoses
  • Colon cancer
  • Prostate
  • Lung cancer
  • Skin cancers

How is Cancer Misdiagnosed?

According to responses in a poll from physicians in Best Doctors, Inc., the following are the most common reasons for cancer misdiagnosis:

  • Missing Information: Nearly 39% of respondents said incomplete data in medical information systems contributed to cancer misdiagnosis.
  • Inadequate Pathology: 22% of doctors attribute that misdiagnosis results from insufficient data to make an accurate diagnosis.
  • Incomplete Family or Personal History: More than 20% of respondents said that cancer misdiagnosis happens when patients fail to provide complete family or personal medical history.

Types of Diagnosis Errors

Cancer diagnostic errors include the following:

  • Incorrect Diagnosis – The patient is mistakenly informed they do not have cancer and therefore cannot begin treatment in time.
  • Misdiagnosis – The patient is mistakenly informed that they have cancer when they do not and may undergo unnecessary treatment.
  • Delayed Diagnosis – The patient is given a correct diagnosis too late to begin treatment.

Over Diagnosis and Under Diagnosis

Patients suffer when they are over-diagnosed and under-diagnosed. The New England Journal of Medicine reports that as many as 31% of breast cancers are over-diagnosed, causing healthy patients to undergo cancer treatments for no reason.

According to the American Cancer Society, prostate cancer is the most common cancer in men. However, it can be underdiagnosed. Men with rising PSA levels should be closely monitored and sent for further testing, yet this isn’t always the case.

When Cancer Misdiagnosis Becomes Negligence

A misdiagnosis may seem like an honest mistake; however, there are cases where negligence caused the misdiagnosis. When someone’s careless or reckless behavior results in your harm, the hospital could be held liable for your damages.

The Four Elements of Negligence

To prove fault, the four elements of negligence must be satisfied. To do this, you need to establish that:

  1. The hospital had a duty of care
  2. The hospital breached that duty through reckless actions another professional in a similar field would not have done
  3. These actions caused you harm, such as unnecessary cancer treatment or no treatment at all that led to worsening symptoms
  4. Your harm resulted in monetary and non-monetary damages

Examples of Hospital Negligence Leading to Misdiagnosis

Many actions can cause medical professionals to be negligent and misdiagnose patients, including:

  • Not ordering appropriate tests
  • Not following up on concerning tests or ordering additional tests
  • Not collecting or preserving blood work, urine samples, or biopsies properly
  • Failure to correctly interpret and/or report test results
  • Improper training of employees

Always Seek a Second Opinion

When faced with the uncertainty of cancer, most doctors will advise you to get a second opinion. A 2017 study in JAMA found that only 9.8% of women diagnosed with breast cancer received a second opinion; reasons for not getting a second opinion range. A patient may not want their doctor to feel they aren’t trusted or are concerned a second opinion will delay treatment.

A true professional in the medical field would not be offended by a patient who wanted a second opinion. Cancer treatment often involves multiple doctors working together in your treatment. There can be numerous treatment options with cancer, and seeking a second opinion can help make these decisions.

You Have a Limited Time to File a Lawsuit in Ohio

Ohio Revised Code §2305.113 says that a medical malpractice lawsuit must be started within one year after the malpractice event, such as a misdiagnosis or the wrong treatment, occurred.

What if You Don’t Notice a Misdiagnosis Immediately?

Suppose that in the first year after treatment, you find that something was misdiagnosed. In that case, a written notice can extend your right to sue for an additional 180 days. No matter what, written notice is required, and §2305.113 is very specific about how you must give notice.

What if You Still Don’t Feel Right After Treatment?

If you know something is still not right after treatment, you should continue consulting with medical professionals. Suppose that within four years of consulting with medical professionals, it is determined that something was amiss with the original diagnosis/treatment. In that case, you have a year to file from this date.

Timeline to File for Parents or Guardians

If you are a parent or a guardian of a minor child, or an adult child with a mental disability, the statute of limitation extends to four years. But you must not delay in filing a medical malpractice claim.

Contact a Medical Malpractice Lawyer Today

Medical malpractice is complex, and a cancer misdiagnosis can change your life. A highly skilled medical malpractice lawyer can review your records and examine your case to determine if you have a claim. Sometimes a medical professional will be consulted in helping with this review.

If you have a potential case, a written notice must then be served to everyone involved in your care, either:

  • At the time they allegedly diagnosed your cancer
  • During the time of treatment

As the victim, you have the burden of proof to provide substantial evidence that proves a misdiagnosis occurred. Therefore, you need experienced legal representation that knows how to gather the necessary evidence for your claim. Call Kisling, Nestico & Redick today at 1-800-HURT-NOW to schedule a free consultation.