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Failure to Diagnose or Misdiagnosis of Cancer

Lofton & Lofton is a trusted firm of South Carolina medical malpractice lawyers. Since 1984, we have assisted victims, as well as their families, who have been harmed by medical care providers’ negligent acts or omissions, which can include failure to properly diagnose cancer. Our Charleston firm provides award-winning representation in claims of personal injury or wrongful death arising out of medical malpractice.

Understanding Cancer

Cancer is not one, but over 100 distinct diseases. The human body is made of a vast number of cells that have a specific replication process. When their growth becomes uncontrolled, the cells may form a tumor or spread to other parts of the body. A few examples of cancer types and their physical places of origin include:

  • Carcinoma (skin, internal organs)
    • Breast and lung cancer
    • Prostate, colorectal cancer
  • Sarcoma (connective tissue)
    • Form in muscle, fat, bone, or cartilage
  • Leukemia (blood, bone marrow, or spleen)
    • Acute or chronic lymphocytic leukemia
    • Acute or chronic myeloid leukemia
  • Lymphomas (lymphatic system)
    • Vascular glands, nodes fight infection
    • Hodgkin and non-Hodgkin lymphoma

Because cancer is known to metastasize or spread, it does not change names as it passes through the body. Liver cancer, for example, does not become myeloma once it spreads to bone marrow. Common tests used to screen cancer include mammograms, colonoscopies, and Pap smears. In many cases, cancer is never diagnosed until the patient undergoes a completely unrelated test.

Failure to Diagnose Cancer

Cancer is a relatively modern epidemic. As the disease became more prevalent and garnered more attention, medical research struggled to keep pace. Even now, a battery of tests is required just to rule out cancer. Fortunately, more advanced methods now exist to diagnose the disease, and include:

  • Biopsy using needle aspiration
  • Sentinel node biopsy (lymph nodes)
  • Endoscopy (camera in colon, intestine)
  • Blood tests to detect tumor release antigen
  • Pap smear (microscope scraped cervical cells)
  • Analysis of saliva, sputum, and respiratory fluids
  • MRI, PET, CT scan, contrast radio assay, ultrasound
  • Bone marrow aspiration to test spongy tissue between bone
  • Genetic analysis test for genetic mutations in chromosomes
  • Other biopsies: vacuum-assisted, image-guided, surgical incision

These tests seek to isolate the source of cancer and determine future treatment. When a patient complains of symptoms, the doctor must conduct a thorough history and physical, performing the proper tests to classify the cancer.

Liability for Misdiagnosis of Cancer

Effective diagnosis may require repeated testing to detect changed conditions in the patient. Because other infections imitate the symptoms of cancer, the disease can be difficult to classify. Lymphomas often escape the notice of experts. However, diagnosis not only of the disease, but its location, stage, and metastasis is required to effectively keep cancer in check. Still incurable, cancer can only be controlled through intense radiation, chemotherapy, and surgery. In the end, pathologists, oncologists, and radiologists generally make the final diagnosis. But all physicians must fulfill their duty to either diagnose or refer patients to a specialist to diagnose cancer.

Recovery of Damages for Malpractice

When physicians breach their duty of care to patients, injured parties turn to the South Carolina personal injury attorneys at Lofton & Lofton for help. For over 25 years, we have assisted medical malpractice victims obtain the compensation they deserve. Health care professionals violate a legal duty to their patients when they fail to diagnose cancer. This clearly injures patients through delayed treatment, improper treatment, and even premature death. We help patients and families recover lost income, medical or funeral expenses, wrongful death damages, and other benefits so they can move on with their lives. Call (843) 722-6319 for a confidential consultation or contact us online.