What is Cancer?
Cancer is a very serious disease and, according to the World Health Organization, is one of the leading causes of death throughout the world. Cancer occurs when old or damaged cells in the body continue to divide and multiply rather than die. This can result in malignant tumors or other abnormalities that can interfere with standard body functions. If left untreated, cancer cells destroy healthy cells and will continue to multiply and spread to other parts of the body. Cancer Misdiagnosis can greatly impact treatment, care and overall lifespan of patients and cost thousands of dollars more to treat.
Symptoms of cancer vary depending on the specific type of cancer, the location, and the stage of advancement. For many cancers, there are no early symptoms, which is why it is important to get regular medical screenings that focus on prevention and early detection. In some situations, symptoms do not appear until the cancer has spread and functioning has already been affected. For many types of cancer, symptoms are caused by pressure from a tumor.
Some common cancers and common symptoms include:
- Bladder Cancer – pain while urinating or bloody urine
- Brain Cancer – headaches or difficulty with memory
- Breast Cancer – breast lumps or discharge from the nipple
- Colorectal Cancer – rectal bleeding
- Endometrial Cancer – abnormal uterine bleeding
- Lung Cancer – shortness of breath or coughing up blood
- Melanoma – unusual moles
- Pancreatic Cancer – jaundice or abdominal pain
- Prostate Cancer – difficulty urinating
About 1 in 8 U.S. women, approximately 12 %, will develop invasive breast cancer in her lifetime. An estimated 246,660 new cases of breast cancer are expected in the U.S. in 2016. An early and accurate cancer diagnosis is the foundation upon which all subsequent treatment decisions are based. Errors regarding diagnosis may result in countless mistakes, ultimately affecting the patient’s prognosis. Diagnostic errors may cause patients to endure unnecessary treatment or surgery, deteriorating health due to a delay in diagnosis, anxiety and distress when treatments are unsuccessful, as well as lost income and mounting medical costs.
Many forms of cancer have a more positive prognosis when detected and diagnosed early, before the disease can spread; the majority of treatments are most effective when caught in the earliest stages. If a physician fails to detect symptoms that would lead a reasonable doctor to diagnose any type of cancer, the patient may be deprived of lifesaving treatment. Cancers that are frequently misdiagnosed include breast, lung, prostate, cervical, ovarian, and testicular. In order to win a cancer misdiagnosis case, an individual must prove that cancer should have been detected at an earlier stage, which would have led to a significantly different and improved outcome.
Expenses related to late-stage treatment options for cancer increase exponentially the later the cancer is diagnosed. Research shows that early-stage treatment of breast cancer costs on average $14,000 per year while late stage treatment averages $61,000 in the same year. Rigorous cancer treatments like chemotherapy and radiation can be costly and cause incapacitating side effects. Early detection not only improves prognosis, it also allows for much less expensive treatment options. Any delay or misdiagnosis can mean unnecessary treatment and expenses along with decreased odds of survival. In addition to expenses directly attributable to medical care, individuals may also have significant out-of-pocket expenses that may include travel, childcare, loss of earnings, as well as pain and suffering. Our medical malpractice lawyers at the Law Offices of Wais, Vogelstein, Forman & Offutt have experience with cancer misdiagnosis cases and may be able to recover compensation for you and your loved ones; contact us for a free evaluation.
Decreasing your risk
Receiving regular medical care significantly increases a person’s chances of surviving cancer since early detection and treatment are the key. Regular and preventative medical care allows your healthcare provider to use screening tools such as mammograms, pap smears, colonoscopies, and fecal occult blood tests. Additionally, regular medical care allows your healthcare provider to evaluate and detect early symptoms, assess future risk for developing cancer, and promptly order diagnostic testing.
When cancer has been diagnosed, the goal of treatment is to bring about complete remission of the disease, which means that there is no sign of disease in the body. Generally, treatment plans are individualized depending on the type of cancer, advancement of the disease, age of the patient, as well as medical history. The best treatment plans come from a team of specialists, which might include medical and/or radiation oncologists, and nurses who specialize in cancer care. Treatment may include some combination of chemotherapy, dietary counseling, pain medication, clinical trials, palliative care, physical therapy, radiation, surgery to remove tumors or growths, and regular follow-up care.
Books & Resources
For more information on cancer misdiagnosis, the following resources are available:
- Better Medicine – Cancer
- Cancer Centers of America
- Cancer Diagnosis – 11 Tips For Coping
- New York Times Health Guide – Cancer
- American Cancer Society – A Message Of Hope: Coping With Cancer In Everyday Life
- “Diagnosis Cancer: Your Guide to the First Months of Healthy Survivorship” by Wendy Schlessel Harpham>
- “Cancer Diagnosis: What to do Next” by W. John Diamond