Cancer Misdiagnosis

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Pittsburgh Cancer Misdiagnosis Attorneys

Our attorneys have years of experience handling cases of cancer misdiagnosis due to medical malpractice. In claims where cancer has gone undiagnosed or is misdiagnosed due to medical negligence by a doctor, lab technician, or other medical professional, our Pittsburgh attorneys have the experience and resources to help you find the answers you deserve, and recover financial damages to help ease the burden for you and your family.

Delayed Diagnosis

In this video, Pittsburgh medical malpractice attorney Brendan Lupetin discusses the topic of delays in the diagnosis and treatment of cancer, and how this can be classified as negligence or malpractice.

“A common area of medical malpractice that we work in is delays in diagnosing and treating  various types of cancers. The reasons and circumstances leading up to a delay or misdiagnosis of cancer falls into two types of categories.”

Watch the video to learn more.

Cancer Misdiagnosis FAQ

Types Of Cancer Misdiagnosis Cases We Handle

The rule of thumb for many serious conditions is sooner diagnosis and treatment is better than later.  Because time is of the essence, doctors are taught how to recognize early signs and symptoms of potentially deadly conditions of all types, from infection to heart and vascular disease.  
A Medical malpractice case based on delayed diagnosis may be rooted in miscommunication between healthcare providers or simply oversight. The common thread is usually a missed warning sign such as lab result, a radiology study, or physical exam finding which raises a red flag for a serious medical condition. Careful doctors and nurses recognize the red flags and act immediately. When healthcare providers fail to put the pieces together, patients may lose their window of opportunity for successful treatment. Unfortunately, this type of delay in diagnosis can result in permanent loss of limb or loss of life.

Delayed Cancer Diagnosis

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.

The Legal Obligations Of Medical Professionals

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 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.

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.

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.

Pain & Suffering

As in most medical malpractice cases, a victim of delayed diagnosis or misdiagnosis of cancer can be compensated for pain and suffering based on the physical pain and emotional anguish they suffer as a result of the actions or inactions of their doctor or medical care provider. 

If the patient has died, in addition to medical malpractice claims, you may also have wrongful death and survival action claims.


When a healthcare provider fails to accurately diagnose skin cancer, it can result in the disease progressing to a more advanced stage, which can significantly decrease survival rates and increase the complexity of the treatment required. It is crucial for patients to understand their rights in the event of a misdiagnosis and how medical malpractice lawyers help.


Lung cancer, one of the most common and lethal forms of cancer, presents significant challenges in terms of diagnosis and treatment. When a medical professional’s misstep leads to a misdiagnosis, patients and their families may not only face a dire health crisis but a daunting legal battle as well.


Breast cancer can have devastating effects for women and their families.  Through science and ingenuity, mankind has developed tests which earlier identify women whose risk of acquiring breast cancer drastically exceeds that of the general population.  But, some women are simply unable to afford testing which can help spot mutations in genes that predispose a woman to breast cancer.

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