Kingston, New York medical malpractice lawyer reveals the secrets to winning a cancer misdiagnosis case

Whenever there is a delay in the diagnosis of cancer, it is unfortunate.  When the delay diminishes your chance for survival, the consequences can be devastating.  Each kind of cancer, ranging from brain cancer, breast cancer, colon cancer, lung cancer and thyroid cancer, have different rates of growth and depending on the length of the delay in diagnosis, a delay in diagnosis can significantly diminish your likelihood of survival.

What are the signs and symptoms of cancer that you should look out for?

While every kind of cancer has its own unique signs and symptoms, there are common signs and symptoms that you should watch out for.  Blood in the urine (hematuria) is associated with cancer of the bladder, prostate and kidneys; blood in the rectum is often associated with colo-rectal cancer and coughing up blood (hemoptysis) is associated with lung cancer. Bleeding is a common sign in many forms of cancer and particularly for persons at risk of cancer (i.e., smoker and lung cancer), the cause of the bleeding should be carefully investigated in order to rule out cancer as the cause of the bleeding.

What are the warning signs of a brain tumor in a child?

Head and neck pain is a common warning sign of a brain tumor.  Children develop brain cancer at the base of their brain with a form of cancer known as ependymoma.  The warning signs of a pediatric brain tumor, such as ependymoma, include head and neck pain of unknown origin, lack of physical activity, loss of appetite, light or sound sensitivity.  Simple imaging studies of the brain, such as a CT or MRI of the brain, will detect a brain tumor.  The early detection and treatment of a brain tumor is crucial to long-term survival and preservation of brain function.

What you can do to make sure cervical cancer is detected before it spreads

Cervical cancer is one of the three most deadliest forms of cancer for women and it is also the most preventable.  Regular Pap smears every two to three years is critical to the early detection of cervical cancer.  When detected early, the likelihood of survival five years after the diagnosis of cervical cancer is 92%.  However, when cervical cancer spreads beyond the cervix, the five year survival rate is less than 50%.

A vaccine known as Gardasil has been approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to prevent the virus, human papillomavirus (HPV) that causes cervical cancer.  Women who receive the vaccine should still get regular Pap smears to check for abnormal cells on the surface of the cervix that can be precancerous or cancerous.

What are the top five risk factors for ovarian cancer?

Ovarian cancer is the fifth highest cause of cancer death among women and the number one cause of cancer death among cancer of the female reproductive organs.  You should make sure you are familiar with the top 5 risk factors and the symptoms of ovarian cancer.  Early detection of ovarian cancer increases the likelihood of survival by 90% to 95%. 

The symptoms of ovarian cancer often mimic digestive and bladder problems, and thus, early diagnosis of this dangerous type of cancer is often delayed.  When diagnosed before the cancer spreads beyond the ovaries, ovarian cancer has a very high cure rate.  However, after the cancer spreads beyond the ovaries to the surrounding tissues and lymph nodes, the five year survival rate is less than 50%.

Why are annual mammograms crucial in the battle against breast cancer?

A clinical breast exam may reveal a lump or mass in the breast or under the armpits after breast cancer has spread and that, unfortunately, is often too late for a cure.  

The best way to detect small cancer cells in the breast is an annual mammogram (an x-ray of the breast) for women over the age of 40.  Mammography will detect small tumors before they form into palpable masses or lumps and mammograms can even detect precancerous growths.  Mammograms can detect precancerous growths in the breast before a malignant tumors develops.

What is the key to beating lung cancer?

When detected early, lung cancer is curable.  Lung cancer in stages one and two have five year survival rates between 55% and 85%.  If you have a history of smoking, particularly heavy smoking of more than one pack per day, there are early warning signs of lung cancer that can help you detect lung cancer before it metastasizes, or spreads. 

Watch out for abnormal breathing sounds and axillary adenopathy (inflammation of the lymph nodes in the armpits), as these early warning signs of lung cancer may be present before the lung tumor spreads to distant organs.  A chest x-ray, or even better a CT scan of the chest, are imaging tests that will help you detect lung cancer if you have one or more of the warning signs.

How can men stop prostate cancer?

For men in North America, the chance that you will be diagnosed with prostate cancer is 25%--that's one in four!  Pretty scary odds.  To fight these odds, you need to make sure you are familiar with the early warning signs of prostate cancer and get screening tests, consisting of a Prostate Specific Antigen blood test and a digital rectal examination, at least once a year after the age of 50.

Painful urination is a classic symptom associated with bladder cancer.  When a prostate tumor presses upon the urethra, urination can be painful and interrupted.  Keep an eye out for this warning sign of prostate cancer!

How you can spot lymphoma in its early stage

The key to beating lymphoma is early detection.  If you have a mass or lump on your neck, armpit or groin, make sure you have it checked by your physician--it  might be the first sign of lymphoma (cancer of the lymphatic system).  A biopsy will reveal whether the mass has cancerous cells and if so, imaging studies will reveal whether the disease has spread to other parts of your body.

When lymphoma is detected in the early stages of the disease, the cure rate is 75% to 95%.  But when the lymphoma spreads to other parts of the body, particularly the bone marrow or spinal canal, the cure rate is low.  Make sure you are familiar with the signs of lymphoma and have any abnormal masses or lumps checked for lymphoma

Make sure your doctor rules out bladder cancer if you have blood in your urine

When you have blood in your urine, you have the most common sign of bladder cancer.  Don't let your doctor tell you that nothing is wrong until bladder cancer has been ruled out with a cystoscopy (an inspection of the inside of the bladder).  Blood in the urine, known as hematuria, can have many causes, but bladder cancer should be the presumed cause until it is ruled out by cystoscopy.

Bladder cancer is the fourth leading cause of cancer death in America.  Just like colo-rectal cancer, it is highly preventable when bladder cancer is first diagnosed in its early stage.  When bladder cancer is diagnosed before the cancer spreads beyond the wall of the bladder, the chances of a cure are excellent.  The key is early detection of bladder cancer.

Why is cancer often misdiagnosed?

Unfortunately, it is not uncommon for certain kinds of cancers to go misdiagnosed until the damage to the patient is either irreversible or requires extremely aggressive treatment.  Around 12% of U.S. cancer patients misdiagnosed a year with the highest rates involving breast, ovarian and cervical cancer. Diagnosing certain types cancer can be difficult, and your physician may not have the skill to do so correctly. Research by the American Medical Association shows that the number of diagnostic errors is growing and that such diagnosis results in as many as 80,000 deaths each year.

For example, breast cancer diagnoses are extremely prone to physician error. Clusters of malignant cells within the breast tissue are often easily overlooked by pathologists and radiologists, delay the patient's ability to receive treatment and in some cases, irreparably damaging their chances of a healthy recovery.

Additionally, physicians sometimes wrongfully diagnose patients with having cancer. These patients then go through unnecessary costly, painful, and traumatic treatments, and the emotional trauma of believing that they have a life-threatening disease. If you or a loved one's cancer was misdiagnosed, you may be entitled to compensation in the way of medical bills, lost wages, and pain and suffering. You should immediately contact an attorney to find out the legal options available to you!

How can you tell if earlier diagnosis of cancer would have changed the outcome?

When there is a delay in the diagnosis of cancer, the question is whether an earlier diagnosis would have changed the patient's prognosis, or five year survival rate.  If, for example, there has been a delay in the diagnosis of lung cancer, it must be proven that the patient's likelihood of survival would have been significantly better had the cancer been diagnosed earlier.

The patient's "loss of a chance" can be quantified by comparing the five year survival rates.  Statistical rates of survival (the "five year survival rate") for virtually all kinds of cancer are available.  Patients, for example, with Stage One lung cancer have a five year survival rate of 85% from the date of their diagnosis while patients with Stage Four lung cancer have less than a 2% survival rate five years after their diagnosis. If the lung cancer was diagnosed at Stage Four, but should have been diagnosed at Stage Two, then the patient suffered a loss in his/her likelihood of a cure of more than 50%.

If you have questions, I welcome your phone call

If you want more information or have questions, I welcome your phone call on my toll-free cell at 866-889-6882 or you can request my free book, The Seven Deadly Mistakes of Malpractice Victims, at my website at www.protectingpatientrights.com.  I encourage you to call me if you have questions or concerns about the care that you or your loved one has received.