At Lupetin and Unatin, we know people feel betrayed when a diagnosis of cancer is delayed by months or years. Everybody deserves the best odds at beating cancer. While advances in medicine give millions of people hope in their fight this disease, the battle does not start until doctors unmask cancer that hides within us. We have the experience to find out whether a medical mistake has delayed the diagnosis and treatment of cancer and taken precious time away from you or a loved one. Get in touch with a Pittsburgh delayed cancer diagnosis lawyer at our firm to learn more.
Recognizing a Delayed Cancer Diagnosis
To determine whether a doctor or hospital is responsible for medical malpractice associated with a delay in diagnosis of cancer, the lawyers at the Pittsburgh law firm of Lupetin and Unatin answer three questions:
- Did a doctor or hospital miss an opportunity to diagnose cancer?
- Was the opportunity to diagnose cancer missed because of carelessness, i.e., negligence?
- Did the delay in diagnosis cost the patient years from their life?
When somebody is first diagnosed with cancer, they want to know why their cancer was not caught sooner. While exploring the patient’s medical history, the patient and their treating oncologist can uncover missed opportunities for earlier detection and diagnosis of cancer.
Failure to Detect Cancer Symptoms
Often, the early symptoms of cancer are no different than those seen in common, harmless medical conditions. Muscle pain, fractures, pain or urgency with urination, breast soreness, or a sore throat are examples of conditions treated like temporary problems that will get better as time passes. Yet, each of these symptoms could represent an early sign of cancer, especially when the symptoms persist or reoccur without explanation.
In other cases, the first sign of cancer is in the form of an abnormal growth on the surface of our skin or a mass growing deep within our bodies. Not every abnormal spot on the skin is skin cancer. Not every cyst or lump within a breast is breast cancer. However, specialists like dermatologists and gynecologists must know when to suspect cancer and what tests or treatment will rule in or rule out cancer as soon as possible.
Our Pittsburgh delayed cancer diagnosis attorneys will sift through records of medical treatment before the cancer diagnosis and find out whether signs or symptoms of cancer were disguised as a common medical condition. Then, our lawyers can determine whether doctors did their job and looked deep enough to uncover cancer lurking beneath the surface.
The Legal Obligations of Medical Professionals in Pittsburgh
Under Pennsylvania law, physicians must have up-to-date medical skills and knowledge. Failing to keep current and use current knowledge in the medical treatment of a patient constitutes negligence under Pa. SSJI (Civ) 14.10. For medical specialists, staying current in their field may involve knowing about the latest research published in medical studies.
Physicians should also be familiar with clinical guidelines established by committees of experts on a particular medical topic. For example, if a pulmonologist is evaluating a patient who has a mass seen on a CT scan of the lungs, the pulmonologist needs to decide whether the patient should undergo more imaging studies or a biopsy, and, if so, when such testing needs to be performed. The pulmonologist must use their training and experience to form a plan to evaluate the mass while also making sure their plan is consistent with the approach for evaluation of a lung mass currently used and accepted by other doctors in their field.
Failure to Diagnose Is Not Always Considered Malpractice
Sometimes, people believe if cancer was present months or years before the diagnosis, a doctor must be to blame for the delay. This is a natural and common reaction for somebody whose world is turned upside down by a new diagnosis of cancer. In Pennsylvania courts, attorneys representing doctors and hospitals remind the jury not to make their decision based on hindsight. Rather, jurors are to consider only whether the healthcare providers made the right decisions and provided appropriate care based on the information they had at the time in question. It would be improper for a delayed cancer diagnosis lawyer to argue that simply because the cancer was detectable at an earlier time, the Pittsburgh doctor or hospital made a mistake and is accountable for not making an earlier diagnosis.
Determining Whether a Patient’s Life Expectancy Was Reduced
When a medical mistake delays the diagnosis of cancer, the final question a Pittsburgh attorney will ask is whether the delay in treatment reduced the patient’s chances for beating cancer or their life expectancy with cancer. Cancer treatment usually involves a combination of chemotherapy, radiation, or surgery. When there is a delay in treatment, cancer will grow. Depending on how long cancer grows and where it is located in the body, untreated cancer can spread throughout the body via blood vessels, the lymphatic system, or even the nervous system.
The passage of time alone is not evidence cancer has spread throughout the body or reduced the life expectancy of the patient. Fortunately, in some patients, the prognosis is barely affected by a delay in diagnosis of many months. On the other hand, delays in treatment of a year or more can mean the difference between early-stage cancer confined to the location where the cancer started and late-stage cancer that has spread to other parts of the body. Delays in diagnosis can also mean the difference between a good chance the patient will live for five years or more after their cancer is diagnosed and a less than 50% chance of living for even five years.
Types of Cancer Misdiagnosis Cases We Handle
The Pittsburgh lawyers of Lupetin & Unatin investigate cases involving the delay in diagnosis of many different types of cancer, including:
- Brain cancer
- Colon cancer
- Thyroid and parathyroid cancer
- Neck cancer, including oropharyngeal cancer and laryngeal cancer
- Skin cancer, including melanoma, basal cell carcinoma, and squamous cell carcinoma
- Lung cancer
- Liver cancer
- Kidney cancer
- Bladder and prostate cancer
- Cervical, vaginal and vulvar cancer
- Ovarian cancer
- Blood cancer, including multiple myeloma and lymphoma
Our experienced team of trial lawyers will not leave your questions unanswered. If a doctor or hospital failed to use proper skill and knowledge, and delayed the diagnosis of your cancer, we can help you recover what you or your family have lost.
Get in Touch with a Seasoned Pittsburgh Delayed Cancer Diagnosis Attorney
If you or a loved one are suffering because of a negligent physician’s delayed diagnosis of cancer, it is crucial to understand that you have legal options. A Pittsburgh delayed cancer diagnosis lawyer could assess your case, gather evidence, and hold the wrongful provider accountable for your losses. To learn more about what a dedicated member of our team could do for you, give us a call today.