Your Rights in Ohio After a Cancer Misdiagnosis

by | Nov 13, 2014 | Firm News, Medical Malpractice |

If you are struggling with cancer in Ohio and know that it should have been diagnosed much sooner, you may feel that your doctors have let you down. Cancer misdiagnosis can be a serious problem; not getting the treatment you need soon enough could allow the cancer to spread or become terminal.

There are several common reasons for cancer misdiagnoses. First, if you head to the doctor complaining of pain or simply just for a normal appointment and don’t get a cancer screening, that could result in the early stages of a cancer being missed. Failing to perform tests like a mammogram, colonoscopy or others is neglectful, especially when a patient has a family history of cancer, is at risk due to age, has fair skin or is overweight.

Laboratory errors are another common reason cancer goes misdiagnosed. Errors like false positives can result in you having to take treatments like radiation, chemotherapy or having a mastectomy even though you don’t have cancer at all. Misread mammograms, CT scans or other results can also lead you to believe that you don’t have cancer when you do, letting the cancer have more time to spread.

Delaying the treatment of cancer can cause a treatable condition to become serious or even terminal. Many cancers can be stopped or have good prognoses if they are caught early. Cancers like lung cancer, colon cancer, prostate cancer and breast cancer all have high success rates for recovery when caught early. Not catching them can be devastating, though.

The Facts On Misdiagnosis

The National Center for Policy Analysis also addressed the issue of misdiagnosis. Their facts include the following:

  • 40,500 diagnostic errors that are fatal occur in intensive care units within American hospitals every year.
  • Diagnosis errors are more common than errors involving medication and surgery mistakes, affecting 10-20 percent of all medical cases.
  • A 2009 study involving 538 diagnostic errors showed that 28 percent of those errors were fatal, caused permanent disability or threatened the life of the patient.
  • Many patients fail to take legal action, making it difficult to estimate how many people are victims.
  • Doctors are often reluctant to report errors.

Dangers Of Misdiagnosis

A cancer misdiagnosis can lead to serious problems, even death. Glenda was lucky because she defied the odds and survived. Others are not always as lucky and their cancer is found too late for it to be treated. Likewise, there are people that are treated for cancer that do not actually have cancer. Some misdiagnosed women have undergone mastectomies and hysterectomies leaving them unable to have children and having endured debilitating chemotherapy for nothing.

Common Reasons Cancer Is Misdiagnosed

  • Lack of tools: Some doctors and hospitals, states the Boston Magazine, are lacking the necessary tools needed to properly diagnose cancer. Either the tools simply are not available or are too old to be reliable. In fact, a recent study showed that 51 percent of the doctors who responded felt that new both pathology and radiology tools might help in the diagnosis of cancer.
  • Not enough history: A lack of technology is not always to be blamed. Sometimes doctors simply do not get enough patient history to properly diagnose cancer. According to CBS News, a chronological and detailed history may play an important role in a diagnosis. Why do patients not give a thorough history? Embarrassment may play a role in some cases, but time constraint could be an issue too. Patients need enough time to give their medical history, which does not happen that often because of the doctor’s busy schedule.
  • Ignored symptoms: At other times, according to The New York Times, symptoms are ignored. Perhaps a doctor dismisses obvious symptoms because of a patient’s age or lifestyle. For example, there are doctors who operate under the idea that cancer is for old people, so young people are, unfortunately, misdiagnosed. Other times, patients may even be to blame for ignoring symptoms. Some people label certain pain as a part of getting older, so they do not see the need to talk about the symptom with their physician. Others may simply take certain twinges in stride, and not remember to tell their doctor.
  • Misclassification: Even when cancer is properly spotted, it does not necessarily mean that the doctor will classify it correctly. According to ABC News, a recent study showed that, of the cases being studied, one out of five was misclassified. The classification, which dictates the type and severity of the cancer, is what helps doctors set the treatment plan. There are a myriad of radiation and surgical options available to cancer patients, and they all work best in specific situations. For example, a patient with bladder cancer may be able to have the affected organ removed, but a patient with cancer across multiple organs may be better served with radiation. A misdiagnosis of cancer in Ohio could reduce a patient’s chances of making a full recovery. When misdiagnosis and other medical malpractice takes place, a knowledgeable attorney may be able to help the patient and his or her family make sense of the situation.

Surgeons Make Plenty Of Mistakes Too 

There are certain medical mistakes that surgeons agree should never happen, accidents that are completely preventable and totally unacceptable. When these “never events” do happen, however, hospitals are required to report them to the National Practitioner Data Bank so that the federal government can keep track of how often they are happening. It may be surprising for Cleveland patients to learn that these never events are happening approximately 4,000 times a year.

A recent report authored by Johns Hopkins University has found that there were about 80,000 never events recorded between 1990 and 2010. While this number seems shockingly high, researchers also believe that it is conservative, as not every never event is reported to the Database and never events are generally only discovered when they affect the health or well-being of a patient. Fortunately, those individuals who are the victims of never events can file for medical malpractice, obtaining compensation for their negligent medical treatment.

One of the most common of mistakes is a surgeon leaving something inside a patient’s body. From a surgical sponge to a towel to something as frightening as a medical instrument, foreign objects in the body can cause long-lasting and serious damage. Not only does the risk of infection increase, but the object can cause damage to the nerves, tissue and surrounding organs. In some cases, an individual may die from something being left in his or her body.

What is worse is that there is no reason for anything to be left inside an individual’s body. Many hospitals are now using a barcode system to scan everything used in the surgery, from sponges to surgical tools, before and after the surgery. If anything is missing, the surgeon will know not only that something was left in the body, but also what is missing. Despite the advances hospitals have made to eliminate this never event, it is believed this still happens approximately 39 times a week.

Take Charge Of Your Care To Avoid Mistakes

The Institute for Healthcare Improvement points out that the risk of readmission may be reduced when patients have adequate support, education and post-operative coaching. This often starts while patients are preparing for a procedure. Before going in for surgery or treatment, patients may want to consider the following:

  • Consulting with the doctor or surgeon on the procedure, how it will be performed and what to expect during recovery
  • Obtaining a list of recovery instructions, including how to keep a surgical incision clean, what to look for regarding infection, activity restrictions, prescribed medications and how often to take them
  • Discussing current medications and supplements with the doctor, potentially avoiding adverse drug reactions
  • Creating an advance directive that explains measures to be taken if there is an emergency or incapacitation

Fight Back After A Cancer Misdiagnosis

A misdiagnosis of cancer can be devastating in the long run. What used to be a treatable condition may have grown into a serious condition requiring multiple surgeries, or you could even be facing a terminal diagnosis due to the delay in treatment. Many types of cancer have a good treatment success rate, but delaying treatment can allow the cells to spread, spreading cancer to other parts of your body that are harder to treat.

Not all types of cancer are easily treatable in the early stages, and not all misdiagnoses or delayed diagnoses are grounds for a medical malpractice claim. However, if you believe that you or a loved one suffered harm due to a negligent error in diagnosing or treating cancer in Ohio, we encourage you to consult an experienced Ohio cancer misdiagnosis attorney immediately.



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