The earlier that cancer is diagnosed, the more likely you will survive. It’s that simple.
There are two questions that must be answered when there is a delay in diagnosis of cancer. The first question is whether the doctor fail to timely diagnose cancer and the second question is whether the delay in diagnosing the cancer decreased the patient’s chance for a cure.
Let’s take a case involving a delay in diagnosing colon cancer. A 62-year old has an office visit with his primary care physician with the complaint of blood in his stool—known as rectal bleeding. When a patient fifty years or older has blood in the stool, the doctor must presume that colon cancer is the cause until proven otherwise with tests.
The best test to diagnose colon cancer is a colonoscopy, where the doctor looks inside the colon for a tumor. But instead of doing a colonoscopy, the doctor diagnoses hemorrhoids and sends the patient home with medicine. The doctor has departed from the standard of care by failing to rule out colon cancer as the cause of the rectal bleeding.
The second question is whether the delay in diagnosing colon cancer decreased the chance for a cure. Let’s say in this example the patient goes to see another doctor six weeks later and the new doctor orders the colonoscopy and diagnoses colon cancer. The six-week delay in diagnosing colon cancer is unlikely to make a difference in the patient’s chance for a cure. Even though the first doctor violated the rules by failing to send the patient for a colonoscopy, the six-week delay diagnosing the colon cancer likely did not make a difference for the chance for a cure.
Under New York law, you must show that the delay in diagnosing the cancer diminished the chance for a cure. To answer this question, you should find out the stage of the cancer at the time of the diagnosis and the length of the delay in diagnosing the cancer.
Every case involving a delay in diagnosing cancer is different. Some types of cancer are fast-growing and aggressive, like lung or pancreatic cancer, and others are slower and less aggressive, like colon cancer and prostate cancer. A three month delay in diagnosing lung cancer can make all the difference in the world for the patient’s survival, while it might not make much of a difference with prostate cancer.
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