When cancer strikes, one of the most valuable tools that a victim has to fight back against it is time. The longer that cancer remains undiagnosed and untreated, the longer that the disease has to spread throughout the body. This can lower victims' chances of survival and increase the necessity for stronger and more invasive treatments. Some of the harsher treatments like chemotherapy and radiation have painful and destructive side-effects that can significantly lower the quality of life for cancer patients..
If you or someone you love faces a cancer diagnosis, it's a difficult battle that requires commitment and courage. It can be overwhelming and defeating to learn that your doctor -- whom you trust to act in your best interests -- failed to diagnose the cancer at an early stage.
In some cases, it may be possible to sue the doctor for failure to diagnose the cancer at a readily-treatable stage. Any potential settlement or judgment could ease some of the financial burdens of treating and living with cancer. Make sure that you understand the legal options that you have available to protect your rights and best interests from this form of medical malpractice.
The diagnostic process provides many opportunities for delay
In most cases, diagnoses of cancer are not one-person operations. Your primary care physician (PCP) may order a litany of tests, which a technician may perform before passing the results to oncologists. Your PCP and the oncologists will then confer about the results. Depending on the complexity of the testing, the medical facilities available in your area and numerous other factors, this process may involve even more steps.
Each of these phases requires individual competence and clear communication between the medical professionals. If any of these individuals do not perform their jobs well, the diagnosis may be delayed. This could making it challenging to determine when and where negligence occurred.
This is not to say that the party who causes the delay cannot bear legal liability, but rather to illustrate the level of detailed research necessary to pursue legal action. For instance, a doctor may order testing, only for a specialist to misinterpret the test results and fail to order the proper treatment. In this instance, it more likely for the specialist to face legal liability than the primary care doctor.
Understanding your own delayed diagnosis
It is worth the time and effort to fight against negligence in medical treatment, especially if a misdiagnosis affects your long-term chances of defeating your illness. If you believe that you have a strong case of misdiagnosis, consider the legal tools that you might use to determine who is truly responsible for the delay while protecting your rights as a patient.