Failure to diagnose cancer

Medical treatment and the survival rate of cancer have improved over the years. Thus, the failure to timely diagnose cancer is a serious problem. Since a patient's chances of survival are inextricably linked to the size and location of the cancer when it is discovered the more important it is to timely diagnose cancer. The failure to timely diagnose cancer may mean that the patient must undergo more rigorous and painful treatment than would otherwise have been necessary if the cancer had been timely diagnosed.

Failure to diagnose cancer can occur because of a number of medical mistakes such as not paying attention to certain warning signs, failing to refer to the appropriate specialists, failing to refer for appropriate diagnostic testing. Below are examples of how a doctor may have failed to timely diagnose cancer.

  • Cervical: A type of cancer easily detectable by smear tests. The survival rates are quite high if detected in early stages, but errors in screening and misinterpretation of results can cause a failure to diagnose cancer that may lead to infertility or death.
  • Esophageal: The distinct symptoms and contributing risk factors should prevent competent doctors from a failure to diagnose cancer of the esophagus, as patients have difficulty in the throat, swallowing, a chronic cough, and generally experience severe weight loss.
  • Colon: A failure to diagnose cancer of the colon usually relates to the failure to properly evaluate and respond to complaints of rectal bleeding, weight loss, the inability to go to the bathroom even though the patient feels the need. Colon cancer is the second leading cause of death in cancer patients.
  • Breast: Responds well to early treatment, but can remain undetected for lengthy amounts of time. A failure to diagnose cancer of the breast tissue can result in serious delays in starting treatment, sometimes causing the loss of one or both breasts, or the death of the patient. Carcinoma of the breast is associated with more claims for negligence than any other form of disease.
  • Lung
  • Skin
  • Prostate: Prostate cancer usually has an excellent recovery rate if detected early on.


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