Medical professionals are the gatekeepers for most treatments. With the exception of over-the-counter medication for minor injuries and maladies, any significant medical care typically must come from a doctor’s recommendation. Therefore, those with serious health issues need a physician to diagnose them accurately and quickly.
Sadly, doctors working in emergency rooms and urgent care facilities often have so many people coming in every day that they address things topically and quickly before moving on to the next patient. Even primary care physicians and family doctors who see the same patients year after year can make serious mistakes and oversights during routine exams or appointments to discuss specific symptoms.
Doctors sometimes have patients present with cancer symptoms and then diagnose them with another condition. Misdiagnosis, or reaching the wrong conclusion when analyzing a patient’s symptoms, is particularly dangerous when the true diagnosis is cancer. What makes misdiagnosis of cancer so risky?
Many forms of cancer metastasize
If skin cancer like melanoma remained isolated to single freckles and moles, it wouldn’t be a very pressing health concern. However, like most other forms of cancer, melanoma will eventually metastasize. It will begin to spread to other parts of the body, which might increase someone’s symptoms and worsen their prognosis. The month or two between a misdiagnosis and an accurate diagnosis is enough time for certain types of cancer to spread to other parts of the body.
Later-stage cancer has fewer treatment options
The cancer spreading and producing worsening symptoms is only one concern after a misdiagnosis of a patient with cancer. The more the cancer progresses and spreads, the fewer treatment options someone may have. It is possible to surgically remove stage one melanoma, often without general anesthesia. Doctors can then monitor a patient and intervene if the cancer recurs. However, once the cancer begins to spread on its own, patients will often require systemic treatment.
Chemotherapy and radiation treatments often have serious side effects. Therefore, the patient will incur much more expense, endure worse treatment side effects and be more likely to die from their cancer, especially if they do not tolerate or cannot afford the suggested course of treatment. Those coping with a cancer diagnosis or grieving the loss of a loved one after a position misdiagnosed them may be able to take legal action.
Pursuing a medical malpractice lawsuit can be a way to reduce the impacts of malpractice on a patient and their family while simultaneously generating consequences for the physician and their employer.