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.

Cancer Misdiagnosis

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.

Despite these challenges, there are instances where the failure to diagnose can be directly attributed to medical malpractice. For example, there may be cases where essential tests such as mammograms or biopsies are not performed because they are deemed too costly or unnecessary at the time. This neglect can delay the diagnosis, allowing the cancer to progress to a stage that requires more aggressive treatment or becomes less treatable. In these situations, a patient might have grounds to pursue a legal claim against those responsible for the oversight.

Moreover, errors in the interpretation of tests can also constitute medical malpractice. A radiologist might incorrectly read an imaging scan, failing to identify a tumor, or a pathologist could mishandle a biopsy sample, leading to a false negative result. These errors can have devastating consequences for the patient, who might miss the critical window for early and more effective treatment options.

In such cases, patients or their families might seek the assistance of a cancer misdiagnosis attorney to explore their legal options to hold healthcare providers accountable for the oversight. Pursuing a medical malpractice claim can not only provide compensation for the damages but also help ensure better medical practices in the future.

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.

However, it is essential to recognize the serious impact of a failure to diagnose cancer in a timely manner. Cancer, if not detected and treated early, can progress to more advanced stages where treatment options become less effective and more invasive, significantly reducing a patient’s chances for recovery. The process of differential diagnosis, where a doctor lists potential illnesses based on a patient’s symptoms, is critical. A lapse in this process—such as not considering cancer as a possible diagnosis or failing to perform necessary diagnostic tests like biopsies or mammograms—can delay treatment commencement. Such delays can be particularly detrimental as cancers that are treatable in early stages may become incurable.

Moreover, while financial considerations may lead some practitioners to skip certain expensive tests, the cost of these tests pales in comparison to the human cost of a life potentially lost or drastically altered due to a late diagnosis. Therefore, while legal defenses rightly argue that decisions should be evaluated based on the knowledge at the time, the medical community must strive to uphold high standards of care, including thoroughness in testing and diagnosis, to prevent such devastating outcomes.

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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