Blog | February 24, 2023

Dealing with a Cancer Misdiagnosis? Your Lawyer Can Help.

Everyone knows that, with cancer, wasted time can be fatal. We are bombarded with reminders to have regular health screenings – mammograms, colonoscopies, skin checks, pap smears – and to monitor our own bodies and health for changes and symptoms to detect cancer at the earliest possible stage. And when we do all these things, we expect our doctor, nurse practitioner, lab, or clinic to do their job properly to give us the best chance of catching and beating this deadly disease. 

Unfortunately, for some people, that is not the case. When a physician or other healthcare provider fails to properly diagnose cancer, this may constitute medical malpractice, they may be legally and financially liable. One of the biggest medical malpractice verdicts in Pennsylvania last year was awarded to a young woman who did everything right but was failed by her healthcare provider. When she found a small lump in her breast, she went to a nurse practitioner who told her it was benign and did not order testing that could have revealed breast cancer, such as an ultrasound or mammogram. Nine months later, the lump had grown, and the young woman was diagnosed with stage IIB breast cancer, which had spread to three of her lymph nodes. She required aggressive chemotherapy and major surgery, and she now has a reduced life expectancy. Had the breast cancer been diagnosed on her first visit to her nurse practitioner, her treatment and chances of long-term survival would have been entirely different.

We hear stories similar to this from our clients, many of whom are facing the difficult consequences and costs of a delayed or missed cancer diagnosis. We help them to find out the truth behind the failures of their healthcare team and to get compensation for the financial and emotional losses that they or their surviving family have suffered. 

What should I do if I have suffered a cancer misdiagnosis or delayed diagnosis?

The most important thing to do if you are concerned about cancer or other health issues is to see a trusted physician. Do not be afraid to ask questions and push for answers. Ask for further investigations, imaging, or tests. Advocate for yourself or your loved one as best you can. 

If you are not happy with the healthcare provider that you have seen, see another provider at a different clinic or hospital. When dealing with something as serious as cancer, many people get a second opinion, and some healthcare providers even encourage it. If you do seek a second opinion or additional tests, check your health insurance policy to make sure you know what costs are covered. Sometimes, it is necessary to pay out of pocket for second opinion consultations and repeated tests.

Cancer is not only physically demanding but emotionally traumatizing. Many cancer patients and their families benefit from counseling or therapy during and after a cancer diagnosis. The additional trauma of delays to your diagnosis and the consequences of this make counseling even more important. A therapist can help with your mental health needs while cancer treatment addresses your physical health.

The third professional that you may need is a lawyer. If your physician or other healthcare provider failed to properly diagnose your cancer, you may be facing not only a battle with cancer, but also a battle to get answers about what happened with your treatment and who is responsible. A lawyer will advocate for you to get to the truth of your care, and help you to get financial compensation for your treatment, therapy bills, other expenses and losses, and the physical and emotional trauma caused by your healthcare provider’s negligence.

Why do I need a lawyer for a cancer misdiagnosis or delayed diagnosis?

When someone receives a cancer diagnosis, there are so many questions: What is the treatment? How soon will it start? What is the prognosis? Will I still be able to work? How will I afford this? 

When cancer is misdiagnosed or diagnosis is delayed, these questions become even more urgent. Patients also often have to deal with a breakdown in trust and communication with their physician, nurse practitioner, clinic, or hospital, as those providers try to minimize their responsibility and liability for the missed or delayed diagnosis. This is when an attorney can help. A medical malpractice lawyer has the skills and tools needed to help you find out what went wrong with your care and get financial compensation to help with your medical bills and losses. 

Medical malpractice claims are medically complex. Physicians spend years in college, medical school, residency, and sometimes fellowship to learn everything they need to know to diagnose and treat patients. When a patient questions their care, that patient probably does not have the medical knowledge to challenge qualified professionals. A medical malpractice lawyer has knowledge in this field and, more importantly, will bring on expert medical witnesses to investigate the failings in your care.

Medical malpractice claims are legally complex. A medical malpractice claim can involve any and all of the parties that have been involved in your care, such as your physician, nurse practitioner, private practice clinic, or large healthcare systems, and their insurers. In order to bring a legal claim for your missed or delayed cancer diagnosis, it is necessary to understand the ethical and legal obligations of each of these parties and their legal relationships with each other. Missing a legal deadline or misunderstanding the law could be costly. A medical malpractice attorney can analyze your case and determine who could be held legally and financially liable in your individual circumstances.

Healthcare providers and health insurance companies are powerful. The providers, healthcare systems, and insurance companies involved in medical malpractice cases often have massive resources to block and defend a claim for malpractice. Cancer patients and their loved ones are often overwhelmed and outnumbered without an experienced medical malpractice lawyer to advise and represent them.

Unrepresented plaintiffs receive less compensation. Research has shown that personal injury victims who do not have a lawyer tend to accept lower settlement offers and receive lower compensation awards if their case does proceed to trial. There are understandable reasons for this. Unrepresented plaintiffs often do not realize which losses and expenses are compensable and tend to undervalue future costs. Experienced medical malpractice attorneys know the value of your medical malpractice claim and have the skills to negotiate for maximum compensation for you.

Medical malpractice claims are high value. In general, the compensation and settlement amounts in medical malpractice claims are often large due to the high cost of medical care and the value put on pain and suffering. Damages in these cases can include medical bills (past and future), lost wages and benefits (past and future), disfigurement, loss of enjoyment of life, physical pain, and mental anguish. A cancer misdiagnosis lawyer will ensure that all of your costs and damages are included in your claim.

Advocating for your own healthcare is important, but in cases of cancer misdiagnosis and delayed diagnosis, you may also need a skilled advocate on your side. If you or your loved one has been the victim of a cancer misdiagnosis or delayed diagnosis, the experienced medical malpractice attorneys at Cohen Feeley Altemose & Rambo can help you get answers and compensation for your loss. Contact us today for a free consultation.

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