Delayed Diagnosis of Uterine Cancer

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A study published in June of 2022 from the Journal of the American Medical Association has shown that rates of death from uterine cancer have been increasing by almost 2 percent every year, an increase so rapid that uterine cancer is expected to displace colorectal cancer as the fourth leading cause of women’s cancer deaths by 2040.[i]

Uterine cancer is cancer that begins in the uterus—the female pelvic organ where fetal development occurs. The most common type of uterine cancer occurs in the lining of the uterus, known as the endometrium. As with most cancer, once healthy cells become cancerous they grow, multiply, and spread to other parts of the body. It is crucial to catch uterine cancer at the earliest possible time, before it has time to spread to other parts of the body. This is when survival rates are the highest and treatment options are best.

Signs of uterine cancer include a change in menstrual bleeding, pelvic pain, painful urination, and painful intercourse. Women who started menstruating at an early age, women who have never been pregnant, older women, obese women, and women who have taken certain hormones are at an increased risk for developing uterine cancer.

The American Medical Association’s new study also showed that rates of uterine cancer are disproportionately higher among Black women. Even more frightening is that Black women receive disproportionate medical care for uterine cancer. Black women are less likely to receive appropriate diagnostic procedures.[ii] Black and Hispanic women are more likely to be diagnosed with uterine cancer once their cancer is at an “advanced stage.”[iii]  Even after diagnosis, Black, Hispanic, and American Indian/Alaska Native women are less likely to receive treatment that complies with accepted guidelines.[iv] As a result, the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists found this year that Black women die of uterine cancer at twice the rate of white women.[v]

There are various tests and procedures that physicians can use to diagnose uterine cancer, including physical exam, transvaginal ultrasound, hysteroscopy, biopsy, and tissue. Depending on how advanced uterine cancer is when detected, treatment options include hormone therapy, targeted drug therapy, hysterectomy (surgical removal of the uterus), radiation therapy, and chemotherapy. More aggressive treatment is required as the cancer becomes more advanced. Early diagnosis is crucial for the optimal treatment options and success rates.

Failure to timely make a correct diagnosis is a common medical error. Many factors can cause a doctor to reach an incorrect diagnosis or to fail to diagnose uterine cancer, including failing to recognize the symptoms, failing to order the right testing, miscommunications about testing results, misinterpreting test results, and more. A doctor’s failures in these areas can cause a correct diagnosis of uterine cancer to be delayed. And a delay in diagnosis can be fatal, as well as decreasing treatment options available to the patient.

If you have been diagnosed with uterine cancer and suspect that your diagnosis could have been reached earlier, our firm is equipped to investigate. We will obtain your medical records and review them with medical experts to determine if an earlier diagnosis was possible. Through this process, we can get answers to your questions and seek financial compensation for you for harm caused by delayed diagnosis. Medical malpractice claims have complex legal requirements and deadlines that are nearly impossible to navigate alone. Contact Lupetin & Unatin and let us walk by you through the process.

[i] Clarke MA, Devesa SS, Hammer A, Wentzensen N. Racial and Ethnic Differences in Hysterectomy-Corrected Uterine Corpus Cancer Mortality by Stage and Histologic Subtype. JAMA Oncol. 2022 Jun 1;8(6):895-903. doi: 10.1001/jamaoncol.2022.0009. PMID: 35511145; PMCID: PMC9073658.

[ii] Doll KM, Khor S, Odem-Davis K, He H, Wolff EM, Flum DR, et al. Role of bleeding recognition and evaluation in Black-White disparities in endometrial cancer. Am J Obstet Gynecol 2018;219:593.e1–14. doi: 10.1016/j.ajog.2018.09.040

[iii] Madison T, Schottenfeld D, James SA, Schwartz AG, Gruber SB. Endometrial cancer: socioeconomic status and racial/ethnic differences in stage at diagnosis, treatment, and survival. Am J Public Health 2004;94:2104–11. doi: 10.2105/ajph.94.12.2104

[iv] Kaspers M, Llamocca E, Quick A, Dholakia J, Salani R, Felix AS. Black and Hispanic women are less likely than White women to receive guideline-concordant endometrial cancer treatment. Am J Obstet Gynecol 2020;223:398.e1–18. doi: 10.1016/j.ajog.2020.02.041

[v] Health Disparities in Uterine Cancer: Report From the Uterine Cancer Evidence Review Conference

Sara Whetstone, William Burke, Sangini S. Sheth, Rebecca Brooks, Arjeme Cavens, Kathryn Huber-Keener, Dana M. Scott, Brett Worly, David Chelmow, Obstet Gynecol. 2022 Apr; 139(4): 645–659. Published online 2022 Mar 10. doi: 10.1097/AOG.0000000000004710

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