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Cancer Misdiagnosis – Biopsies & Abnormal Test Results
Last updated: May 24, 2022
Whether it is breast cancer, lung cancer or skin cancer, misdiagnosis of cancer or delay in diagnosis of cancer often occurs due to the following:
- A treating doctor failed to order a biopsy.
- A radiologist misread diagnostic tests.
- A pathologist misread a biopsy.
- A doctor or specialist did not read or realize the significance of an abnormal test result.
Cancer Misdiagnosis Example: Doctor Failed to Order a Biopsy
A patient goes to their dermatologist for a checkup on a growth on their back that has begun to itch and cause pain. The dermatologist freezes the growth off without ordering a biopsy. Several months later, the growth returns, and the patient is diagnosed with melanoma which has also spread to surrounding tissue and lymph nodes.
Cancer Misdiagnosis Example: Doctor Misread a Diagnostic Test or Biopsy
A patient with a history of smoking and COPD (Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disorder) develops pneumonia. His family doctor orders a chest x-ray, which the patient obtains at a local hospital. The x-ray reveals a suspicious dark mass in one of the lungs. However, the radiologist reading the result doesn’t see the mass or doesn’t report the mass in their report.
Cancer Misdiagnosis Example: Doctor/Office Did Not Read or Relay Test Rest to Patient
A patient gets her routine, annual mammogram. The result as dictated in the report shows a suspicious, asymmetrical mass in the left breast. The radiologist does not order an ultrasound or a diagnostic mammogram. The mammogram report is sent to her family doctor. However, the doctor never sees the report. The doctor’s large medical practice office simply misfiles the report. As a result, the patient never learns that the mammogram was abnormal.
In rare cases, cancer misdiagnosis occurs due to a test or sample mix up. For example, a patient’s cancerous skin sample gets mixed up at the lab with another patient’s non-cancerous skin sample. The patient who has skin cancer receives a negative test result, and the patient who does not have skin cancer receives a positive test result. While these situations tend to be rare, they can and do occur, but are far more uncommon than the other, more typical reasons discussed above.
Delay in Diagnosis Made a Difference in the Outcome (Survival Rate or Treatment)
It’s important to note that proving a medical professional such as a doctor or specialist made an error is not the only requirement a patient must prove in order to prevail in a medical malpractice case. The patient must still prove that the misdiagnosis or delay made a difference in the outcome, either by negatively impacting the survival rate or otherwise resulting in additional treatment including surgeries, oncology treatment, etc.
Using the breast cancer example above, the patient’s abnormal mammogram revealed the suspicious mass. The following year’s mammogram shows that the mass has grown significantly. The patient undergoes an ultrasound and a biopsy which confirms that the patient has cancer. After a double mastectomy, she is diagnosed with Stage 3 breast cancer which has spread to multiple lymph nodes.
In order to succeed in her case against the radiologist for failing to follow up with an ultrasound/diagnostic mammogram and the family doctor’s office for failing to inform her about the abnormal mammogram the year prior, multiple medical experts would be needed, including an oncology expert or breast cancer pathology expert to prove that there was medical malpractice. One of these experts may be able to testify that the cancer patient would have had better 5 and 10 year survival rates had the abnormal mammogram been acted upon appropriately by both the radiologist and the family doctor.
This example shows that it is crucial to have an oncology expert to testify about how the misdiagnosis or delayed diagnosis of breast cancer affected the outcomes.
Pennsylvania Medical Malpractice Lawyers
The medical malpractice lawyers at Morris Wilson Knepp Jacquette, P.C., focus on hospital malpractice, cancer misdiagnosis and other complex medical negligence cases. Since 2016, our law firm has been rated a Best Law Firm by U.S. News & World Report in the area of medical malpractice law. We’ve gone up against some of the largest hospitals in Philadelphia, Delaware County and Montgomery County.
We Accept Medical Malpractice Cases Against Hospitals in the Philadelphia Area
Cases Also Accepted Across Pennsylvania
Chestnut Hill Hospital
Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania
Roxborough Memorial Hospital
Temple University Hospital
Thomas Jefferson University Hospital
Crozer-Chester Medical Center (Upland)
Delaware County Memorial Hospital (Drexel Hill, Upper Darby)
Springfield Hospital (Springfield)
Taylor Hospital (Ridley)
Abington Hospital (Abington, Lansdale)
Bryn Mawr Hospital (Bryn Mawr)
Einstein Medical (East Norriton, Elkins Park)
Holy Redeemer Hospital (Meadowbrook)
Lankenau Hospital (Wynnewood)
Suburban Community Hospital (Norristown)
Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia (Phila., West Chester, East Norriton, Meadowbrook, Doylestown, Langhorne, Sellersville, etc.)
St. Christopher's Hospital for Children
Shriner's Hospitals for Children
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