Taking care of our health is a partnership between ourselves and our doctors. It’s our job to pay attention to our bodies and inform the doctor if anything seems out of order, and also reveal what we know about our habits or family history that may increase our risk of certain conditions, including cancers. It’s the doctor’s job to look into those concerns as necessary based on his or her medical knowledge as well as communication with the patient. When that communication doesn’t happen the results can be both painful and expensive for the patient, and possibly deadly.
With cancer especially early diagnosis can make a big difference when it comes to the invasiveness of treatment options and the potential of remission. But cancer is a loaded word, and some doctors resist the diagnosis and prefer to rule out other possibilities before jumping to conclusions. There are several different symptoms that can be indicators of cancers, but could also be signs of less serious trouble. Together, doctors and patients need to decide the appropriate time to move forward with cancer screenings
What Cancer Might Look Like
For doctors and patients cancer symptoms can be elusive. Both men and women often fail to report symptoms such as weight loss, breast changes, unexplained bleeding, increase in overall pain, and fatigue– all of which may be cancer indicators. Doctors look at many symptoms and pursue a less serious diagnosis. For example
- Persistent migraines might be a sign of brain cancer
- Bloody stools can mean hemorrhoids, or colon cancer
- Breathing problems and wheezing might be bronchitis or COPD, or lung cancer
- Mastitis type symptoms, a breast infection most common in breastfeeding women, may actually be early symptoms of breast cancer
Thankfully, in most cases cancer isn’t the culprit, but when treatments of the lesser ailments aren’t working, and the patient urges for further testing, doctors need to comply in order to help patients begin the right treatment sooner.
When to Screen for Cancer
Whether symptoms are occurring or not there are screening procedures that the American Cancer Society recommends. For example, women over 40 are told to get annual mammograms to detect breast cancer, and anyone over 50 is asked to undergo a colonoscopy in case there might be colon or colorectal cancer present. Those who have a long term smoking habit should be screened for lung cancer if you are between 55 and 74.
These suggestions are not set in stone, and the presence of a family history of certain cancers as well as other increased risk factors can prompt a screening to be done years earlier than the standard. These situations are identified at the doctor’s discretion.
Common Cancers that Fail to be Promptly Diagnosed
- Cervical Cancer
- Colon Cancer
- Breast Cancer,
- Esophageal Cancer
- Brain Cancer
- Prostate Cancer
- Skin Cancer
These and other cancers, as well as other medical ailments may be grounds for a medical malpractice suit depending on a number of factors including how long a diagnosis is delayed, the typical prognosis for early detection, and whether the cancer spread from its place of origin. It also must be determined that the doctor and patient have a relationship where the patient should reasonably expect that the doctor adhere to the duty of care and that doctor ignored symptoms, fails to order diagnostic tests or misread the results.
Getting Your Doctor to Listen
While doctors should listen to their patients, there are ways that you can increase the chances that your concerns will be given the attention they need.
- Be thorough in explaining symptoms and family history
- Do research, but don’t try and outdoctor the doctor with your Internet knowledge
- Ask for copies of your medical records and doctors notes
- Bring an advocate to your appointment that can support you, and back up details of your care
When You or a Loved One Has Already Suffered
A late stage diagnosis of any type of cancer can wreak havoc on a patient as well as their loved ones. Whether a person makes it through advanced cancer or not, it is often after several rounds of painful and draining chemotherapy sessions, surgeries, missed work, extensive medical bills and heartache. Knowing that the diagnosis should have come sooner and could have prevented all that suffering and expense is quite possibly grounds for a medical malpractice suit.
At Meinhart Smith and Manning our attorneys in Louisville, KY specialize in personal injury, wrongful death, and medical malpractice suits — including failure to diagnose cancer. Our compassionate attorneys offer a free case analysis and we are prepared to listen to you and do what we can to get you financially compensated for your experience. Nothing will give you back the time you spent fighting cancer or the the years the disease takes away, but a successful malpractice suit is an indication that your voice was heard and can help alleviate much of the financial strain. If you’ve been a victim of delayed cancer diagnosis, contact us immediately for a free consultation.