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Failure to Diagnose Cancer Lawyer in Washington, D.C.

Physician holding tablet showing cancer results.

Finding and treating cancer as soon as possible usually allows a person to have more treatment options for a greater chance of recovery. When a patient’s diagnosis is delayed because of a negligent mistake or omission on the part of a medical professional, the patient may miss out on certain treatment options that could have been less invasive or would have improved their chances of beating the disease.

Were you or your loved one the victim of a delayed cancer diagnosis in Washington, D.C.? You could be eligible to take legal action against the medical professional and facility that had a failure to diagnose or simply, failed to identify the disease in a timely manner.

While financial compensation cannot turn back the clock on your illness, it could help you pay for medical expenses and could assist you and your family in the fight moving forward. You can also send a message to the doctors who failed to uphold their duty to provide you the quality treatment that you deserved, and your action could help ensure that others do not suffer in the same way.

The Law Offices of Dr. Michael M. Wilson, M.D., J.D. & Associates is dedicated to Washington, D.C. medical malpractice cases and has more than three decades of experience handling cancer misdiagnosis and other claims. Call our law firm or fill out an online contact form to have our Cancer Misdiagnosis Lawyers review your case and discuss all of your legal options during a free consultation.

How Common Are Delayed or Missed Cancer Diagnoses?

A study by the National Coalition on Health Care and Best Doctors, Inc. found that a majority of 400 doctors believed that from 0 to 10 percent of patients are misdiagnosed. The research found, however, that the actual figure could be as much as 28 percent.

A report by the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine found that most people will experience at least one error in their lifetime. A study published in JAMA Internal Medicine found that in 190 cases, 68 unique diagnoses were missed involving cancer and a number of other common diseases.

According to the National Coalition on Health Care study:A woman crying in a Washington D.C. hospital after learning about her cancer diagnosis.

  • 78.9 percent of the process breakdowns involved the patient-practitioner clinical encounter.
  • 19.5 percent were related to referrals.
  • 16.3 percent were related to patient-related factors.
  • 14.7 percent were related to follow-up and tracking of average diagnostic times and various information.
  • 13.7 percent were related to the performance and interpretation of diagnostic tests.

More than one of these breakdowns was involved in 43.7 percent of cases. Of the patient-practitioner breakdowns, 56.3 percent of cases involved problems with history-taking, 47.4 percent involved problems with the examination, and 57.4 percent of cases involved problems with ordering diagnostic tests for further workup.

The bottom line remains that diagnostic errors are incredibly common and rarely analyzed. It is safe to assume that most studies examining delays in cancer diagnosis cases are probably underestimating how often these types of mistakes actually occur.

How Often Do Doctors Fail to Diagnose Cancer?

We may never have a truly accurate account of how often diagnoses are missed in hospitals because there are many cases in which misdiagnoses are never uncovered or realized. People may die after a delayed diagnosis without ever realizing that they were diagnosed with cancer too late or that their conditions were never accurately diagnosed.

Doctors worrying over a cancer misdiagnosis.The Washington Post reported that misdiagnosis was more common than drug errors or wrong-site surgery. The Post reported that a report by the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality found that 28 percent of the 583 diagnostic mistakes reported anonymously by doctors resulted in death or permanent disability or were life-threatening. BMJ Quality & Safety found that fatal diagnostic errors in intensive care units in the United States apparently equaled the 40,500 annual deaths from misdiagnosed breast cancer.

According to the Post, a Harvard Medical Practice Study found that misdiagnosis accounted for 14 percent of adverse events, and 75 percent of the errors involved negligence. David Newman-Toker, a neurologist with Johns Hopkins Medicine who studies diagnostic errors, told the Post that misdiagnosis “happens all the time” and said misdiagnosis was “an enormous problem, the hidden part of the iceberg of medical errors that dwarfs” other errors.

Mark L. Graber, a leading errors researcher and the founding president of the Society to Improve Diagnosis in Medicine, told the Post that he was unaware of “a single hospital in this country trying to count diagnostic errors.”

Why Do Doctors Misdiagnose Cancer or Delay a Diagnosis?

A cancer misdiagnosis is often the result of a doctor not properly interpreting a patient’s alarm symptoms. In some cases, cancer symptoms may be mistaken for symptoms of other diseases that a person does not actually suffer from.

Some of the most common reasons that people are misdiagnosed or receive delayed cancer diagnosis include:

  • Communication errors
  • Failure to perform a biopsy
  • Failure to perform necessary tests
  • Improperly conducted tests
  • Errors in evaluating medical scans
  • Failure to perform complete physical examinations
  • Failure to refer to appropriate specialists

Hospitals can often be chaotic, so it may be possible that a delay in cancer diagnosis was the result of some kind of miscommunication between medical staff. Some doctors may simply have been too busy or overwhelmed to give a patient’s case the thorough review it required. Many diagnosis errors can be the simple result of bad timing.

Why Diagnosing Cancer Early Is Important

Detecting cancer as soon as possible gives the patient the best possible chances of successful treatment. There are several different screening tests that may be used for cancer. Some of the most common include:Woman undergoing MRI in Washington D.C. after her doctor failed to diagnose her cancer.

  • Alpha-fetoprotein blood test
  • Breast magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) (Breast cancer screening)
  • CA-125 test
  • Colonoscopy
  • High-sensitivity fecal occult blood tests (FOBTs)
  • Low-dose helical computed tomography (Lung cancer screening)
  • Mammography
  • Pap test and human papillomavirus (HPV) testing
  • Prostate-specific antigen (PSA) test (Prostate cancer screening)
  • Sigmoidoscopy
  • Skin exams
  • Transvaginal ultrasound
  • Virtual colonoscopy

The Canary Foundation, a nonprofit organization dedicated to identifying cancer, stated, “Survival rates improve dramatically when cancer is diagnosed early and the disease is confined to the organ of origin.” The Canary Foundation reported that early detection makes a significant difference with multiple forms of cancer.

According to the Canary Foundation, colon cancer has a 91 percent five-year survival rate when it is caught early, but only an 11 percent survival rate when it is caught late and has spread to other organs. Similarly, 90 percent of people diagnosed early with ovarian cancer survive five years, while only 28 percent survive five years if the cancer is allowed to spread.

Your Legal Options After a Failure to Diagnose Cancer in Washington, D.C.

If your physician has made a delayed diagnosis, they may express some level of regret and apologize, but this does not necessarily mean they are accepting liability for your injuries. Under District of Columbia Code § 16–2841, “an expression of sympathy or regret made in writing, orally, or by conduct made by or on behalf of the healthcare provider to” a victim, any member of a victim’s family, or any individual claiming damages is inadmissible as an admission of liability.

Doctor explaining x-ray scan results to cancer patient.In general, a medical malpractice action against a negligent party will have to satisfy the four central elements of a negligence claim.

  1. The first requirement is that the negligent party owed the victim a duty of care, which is often proven through the existence of a doctor-patient relationship.
  2. The next element is a breach of that duty of care, which is often the most difficult to prove in these cases. This means that your healthcare provider violated the standard of care, in that they did not provide the care that a reasonable and competent caregiver in similar circumstances would have delivered. With a delayed diagnosis, you will need to prove that there was some kind of evidence of your medical condition that the physician either ignored or failed to identify.
  3. The third element of malpractice is causation. You will have to show that the breach of care directly led to your injuries.
  4. Lastly, you will have to prove that those injuries caused the victim to suffer significant damages.

Again, the challenge in most delayed diagnosis cases is uncovering evidence that there were signs of your condition that existed long before you were finally diagnosed. Healthcare providers rarely admit to these kinds of mistakes, and victims often must independently secure the evidence needed in these types of cases.

Contact Our Experienced Washington, D.C. Misdiagnosis Lawyers, Today!

If you or your loved one were the victims of a delayed cancer diagnosis or a cancer misdiagnosis in Washington, D.C., you need to talk to an attorney as soon as possible. Our experienced medical malpractice lawyers can conduct an independent investigation to collect all of the necessary evidence and help you seek the compensation you are entitled to.

The Law Offices of Dr. Michael M. Wilson has more than three decades of experience handling medical malpractice claims. Call us or contact us online to have our attorneys review your case and help you understand all of your legal options during a free consultation.

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