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Knoxville Medical Malpractice Attorney > Blog > Medical Malpractice > When Can A Cancer Misdiagnosis Be Medical Malpractice?

When Can A Cancer Misdiagnosis Be Medical Malpractice?


Cancer is one of the hardest diagnoses a patient can ever receive. Unfortunately, over 1.6 million Americans are diagnosed with cancer each year, according to the CDC, meaning the illness is not as rare as we might think it is. However, a cancer diagnosis is not as grim as it used to be. Thanks to major developments in cancer research, cancer screening, and advanced treatment methods, the risk of dying from cancer once diagnosed has dropped 32% over the last 30 years.

The key to success in beating cancer is catching it at its earliest stages. Thanks to improved screening methods and new treatments, a person’s chances of surviving cancer are better than they have ever been. That is, if they are diagnosed correctly and before cancer progresses to its later stages.

If a doctor mistakes cancer for another ailment and a misdiagnosis occurs, the consequences can be severe and even fatal. Leaving cancer unchecked as it progresses – while following treatment for some other condition instead – can have devastating effects and even provide grounds for a lawsuit.

How Can a Doctor Misdiagnose Cancer?

It may seem hard to comprehend, but there are several possible reasons a medical provider can initially miss a cancer diagnosis, such as:

  • Not taking a full family history from a patient, particularly one whose family has multiple members that suffered from cancer;
  • Relying on just one test, or an unreliable test;
  • Associating certain cancer symptoms with symptoms from other, more common diseases;
  • Not running a full battery of tests to rule out cancer and other conditions;
  • Lack of communication between doctors (for example, between your primary care physician and a cancer specialist). Errors in communication between information systems also fall along these lines.
  • Mistakes made in the pathology department, from incorrect analysis of tissue samples.

The problem with a misdiagnosis of cancer, as opposed to other conditions, is that cancer involves out-of-control cell growth that can spread to any part of the body without treatment. If cancer is not stopped in its tracks when the opportunity is there, it can run rampant and even take a person’s life.

Early cancer screening and treatment is the best way to thwart the disease and beat cancer into remission. Watching for signs of cancer is not only the responsibility of a patient, but of a doctor or healthcare provider that the patient trusts with their care.

When Can a Patient Sue for Malpractice in a Cancer Misdiagnosis Case?

To prove malpractice in a Tennessee healthcare negligence claim, Plaintiffs must show:

  1. Duty of Care; The doctor or provider has a duty of care similar to other professionals with their training and experience. This means a responsibility to follow certain commonly accepted approaches to diagnosis and treatment.
  2. Breach of Duty; The healthcare provider failed to act in accordance with the professional standards of their medical community, and performed some act – or failed to act – in a manner that led to misdiagnosis.
  3. Causation; The Plaintiff must show some level of causation between the doctor’s breach of duty and the medical injuries they sustained.
  4. Damages; Damages can be physical, emotional, and financial. In the case of a cancer misdiagnosis, damages can include suffering associated with the unchecked progression of cancer, and the substantial costs involved.

In cancer misdiagnosis cases, Plaintiffs will need to show that another similarly trained and situated doctor should have been able to spot the cancer and plan a course of treatment. This can often be demonstrated from lab test results, patient records, and expert testimony from other doctors in the field. Consulting with an experienced medical malpractice attorney in the Knoxville, Tennessee area can help you or your family determine whether factual and legal grounds exist to proceed with a lawsuit and pursue fair financial compensation.

In a Cancer Misdiagnosis Case, Trust Our Knoxville, Tennessee Medical Malpractice Attorneys at Atkins Brezina, PLLC  

If you or a loved one has suffered from cancer that progressed further than it should have due to a missed opportunity to diagnose and treat, you may have a legal right to obtain fair compensation. Each case is unique, and will involve numerous details that can be complex and even painful to look over. We understand what you or your family are going through, because we have been there before for others. Our Knoxville medical malpractice attorneys at Atkins Brezina, PLLC, will carefully review your claim and work with you to determine your legal options and potential recovery.



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