Legally Reviewed by:

Jonathan Rosenfeld

March 2, 2023

Over $400 Million worth of case results

Awarded The Best Lawyer in 2024 by U.S. News

Nationally Recognized in Legal Community

Early detection and diagnosis are key to a favorable cancer prognosis. In contrast, delaying a diagnosis or failing to diagnose cancer can lead to a lower survival rate, severe complications, and immense financial difficulties.

Doctors must detect the warning signs of cancer and diagnose the disease correctly within a reasonable time. Failure to do so may be considered medical malpractice, which is punishable under personal injury law.

A doctor’s negligence shouldn’t put you or your loved one’s life in danger. If your doctor made a cancer misdiagnosis, the medical malpractice lawyers at Rosenfeld Injury Lawyers, LLC could help you recover the financial compensation you deserve.

Contact an experienced Chicago cancer misdiagnosis lawyer at (888) 424-5757 for a free consultation to learn more about your legal options.

failure to diagnose may be grounds for medical malpractice

How is Cancer Diagnosed?

Doctors use several techniques to diagnose cancer, including:

  • Physical Exam: A doctor may conduct a physical examination to look for abnormalities on the patient’s skin that may indicate cancer. A physical exam is also often necessary to diagnose breast cancers, which may manifest through lumps on the breasts.
  • Laboratory Tests: Blood, urine, and other lab tests can help doctors diagnose certain cancers, such as pancreatic cancer and leukemia. Lab tests reveal abnormalities in the body that may indicate the presence of cancer.
  • Imaging Tests: A doctor may order imaging tests, such as a CT scan or ultrasound, to examine the bones and internal organs for abnormalities.
  • Biopsy:  A biopsy is a procedure to remove a tissue sample from the area of concern for laboratory analysis. The lab technician then analyses the tissue for deformities; cancer cells often look disorganized and have varying sizes. A biopsy is the only option to provide a definite diagnosis in most cancer cases.

After the doctor confirms the disease, they will identify the stage or extent of the cancer. The cancer stage will determine the appropriate medical treatment for the patient.

Cancer misdiagnosis can occur at any point in the process and may result from medical malpractice involving more than one person.

What is Considered Cancer Misdiagnosis?

Misdiagnosis occurs when a doctor provides an incorrect diagnosis based on the patient’s medical examination and test results. When diagnosing cancer, a misdiagnosis can occur when a doctor:

  • Diagnoses a different, often less severe condition than cancer
  • Diagnoses the wrong type of cancer
  • Misses or ignores the patient’s cancer symptoms
  • Fails to provide a timely diagnosis

Medical experts are still studying cancer and all its types, making the disease’s nature often misunderstood. Furthermore, cancer can mimic the symptoms of conditions that are not as severe or life-threatening. Because of these factors, cancer is a commonly misdiagnosed condition.

talk to cancer misdiagnosis lawyer

How Often is Cancer Misdiagnosed?

According to the American Cancer Society (ACS), 1.7 million people are diagnosed with cancer yearly. However, it is a challenge for medical experts to determine accurate rates of cancer misdiagnosis among these patients due to the following reasons:

  • The timeline for cancer misdiagnosis cases varies significantly
  • Many cases go unreported
  • Some medical professionals hide medical errors from patients

The BMJ Quality and Safety Journal estimates that cancer misdiagnosis rates occur up to 28%. Unfortunately, the general public will remain in the dark about accurate misdiagnosis rates unless experts conduct a broader study.

common types of cancer misdiagnosis cases

What Are the Most Commonly Misdiagnosed Cancers?

In a study by Best Doctors, Inc. and the National Coalition on Health Care (NCHC), doctors believe that the following cancers are most frequently misdiagnosed:


Lymphoma is cancer that begins in the lymphatic system, caused by the growth of abnormal white blood cells. In lymphoma, the lymphocytes (the cells responsible for fighting infection) mutate and grow out of control, leading to enlarged lymph nodes and a compromised immune system.

Lymphoma is the sixth most common cancer in the US. However, lymphoma pathology is still a challenging field of diagnostic pathology. The disease is relatively easy to treat when diagnosed early. However, doctors often fail to provide a correct cancer diagnosis because lymphoma symptoms are similar to those of less severe conditions (e.g., fever, fatigue, night sweats, etc.).

Breast Cancer

Breast cancer is the most common cancer in women in the US, accounting for 1 in 3 new female cancers yearly. However, it is also one of the most misdiagnosed cancers.

A delayed diagnosis can lead to a lower survival rate. A doctor may fail to provide a timely and correct breast cancer diagnosis due to missing the cancerous cells in the mammogram or failing to identify symptoms.

On the other hand, breast cancer overdiagnosis (misdiagnosing pre-cancerous cells that won’t cause severe or life-threatening medical problems) can put patients at risk of undergoing extreme treatments, such as a mastectomy (breast removal), for no reason.


Sarcomas are an umbrella term for cancers that begin in the bones and soft tissues (muscles, fat, blood vessels, tendons, nerves). There are more than 70 sarcoma types, the most common being angiosarcomas (blood and lymph vessels), fibrosarcomas (tissues around ligaments), leiomyosarcomas (smooth muscles), and rhabdomyosarcomas (skeletal muscles).

Sarcoma misdiagnosis often occurs when a doctor mistakes its symptoms for another condition. A sarcoma can also be misdiagnosed as a primary tumor instead of a sarcoma.

Furthermore, most soft tissue sarcomas can grow for a long time without being painful, and they can be misdiagnosed due to the prominent belief that malignant tumors are painful.


Melanoma is the most severe skin cancer, developing in the cells that produce melanin (melanocytes). Usually, the first sign of melanoma is a new mole or an existing mole changing appearance.

A melanoma misdiagnosis can occur due to a lack of testing, inadequate medical information, or doctor negligence. In some cases, doctors diagnose melanomas as benign when they are malignant, and vice versa.

With a delayed diagnosis, melanoma can spread to other body parts and reduce a patient’s survival rate.

Colon Cancer

Colorectal cancer starts in the colon cells (large intestine) or rectum (the passageway of body waste from the large intestine to the anus).

Colorectal cancer diagnosis involves a colonoscopy, wherein a doctor inserts a tube with a camera into the colon. A colonoscopy can also remove noncancerous tumors called polyps, which can develop into cancer over time.

Colon cancer can spread to other parts if not treated early. The survival rate drops to 14% at Stage IV, compared to 91% at Stage I.

Cervical Cancer

According to the American Cancer Society, cervical cancers are the most frequently diagnosed cancer in American women aged 35 to 44, next to breast cancers. Incidence has dropped due to the increased use of the Pap test. However, cancer misdiagnoses still occur despite the development of medical technology.

Early detection and treatment of cervical cancer are crucial to prevent cancer from spreading to other body parts and becoming life-threatening.

Misdiagnosis can also occur for other cancers, such as lung cancer, pancreatic cancer, and cancer of an unknown site.

Lung Cancer

Lung cancer typically develops slower than other cancers, contributing to the difficulty of diagnosis. In the US, many patients with lung cancer go undiagnosed for years or until they experience severe complications.

Misdiagnosis commonly occurs when doctors mistake lung cancer for other respiratory diseases, such as chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) and tuberculosis.

cancer diagnosis errors

What is The Importance of a Correct and Early Diagnosis?

The survival rate of most cancers (e.g., lung cancer, pancreatic cancer) is higher when the disease is detected in the early stages. A timely and correct diagnosis allows a patient to undergo cancer treatment as soon as possible, which can help shrink cancer and stop its progression.

In contrast, failure to diagnose cancer can allow the disease to spread to other organs or body parts (metastasis), possibly leading to a lower survival rate and severe complications.

Economically, cancer misdiagnosis can lead to increased costs of cancer treatments if the disease has progressed. Furthermore, a patient may undergo unnecessary treatments due to a false diagnosis and experience immense pain and suffering for no reason.

What Factors Contribute to Delayed Cancer Diagnosis and Misdiagnosis?

The following forms of medical negligence can lead to a delayed or missed diagnosis:

  • Failing to take a patient’s complete medical history, including family history and risk factors
  • Failing to offer or suggest appropriate tests, such as biopsies and blood tests
  • Misreading laboratory results
  • Failing to order further testing to investigate suspicious marks or symptoms
  • Missing the warning signs of cancer
  • Ignoring a patient’s complaints or not investigating further
  • Not referring a patient to appropriate cancer specialists despite warning signs present

However, doctors are not always the only ones at fault for cancer misdiagnosis. An incorrect or delayed cancer diagnosis can also occur when:

  • A laboratory technician analyzes tissue samples incorrectly
  • A laboratory technician records the wrong results
  • A hospital employee mixes up two patients’ medical records
  • An administrative employee fails to update your records

How to File a Medical Malpractice Claim for a Cancer Misdiagnosis

Medical negligence is when a healthcare professional fails to deliver services within the standards of care. It is within a doctor’s legal duty to diagnose and treat cancer correctly to prevent the patient from suffering further harm or early death.

A doctor that fails to provide a correct diagnosis and timely treatment may be liable for medical malpractice. To file a successful claim, you must prove that:

  • A doctor-patient relationship existed. First, you must prove that there is a doctor-patient relationship between you and the defendant, which can be your primary care physician or another medical professional responsible for your care.
  • The defendant breached their duty of care. All medical professionals must meet the standards of care within their profession. Failure to diagnose cancer falls short of these standards and is considered a breach of duty.
  • The defendant’s negligence led to your injury or illness. You must prove that you suffered substantial harm from the doctor’s actions (or inaction). For instance, missing a diagnosis in cancer’s early stages may have led to metastasis. In that case, you will need to prove that you suffered harm and that the doctor’s negligence caused it.
  • You suffered significant losses due to the defendant’s actions. Additionally, you must prove that you sustained economic or non-economic damages due to the defendant’s actions. Damages may include medical bills for unnecessary medical treatment, emotional trauma, etc.

Your cancer misdiagnosis lawyer will determine if you have grounds for filing a valid claim.

Who is Liable for Your Cancer Misdiagnosis Case?

Depending on the circumstances, liable parties for misdiagnosis of cancer may include:

  • Your primary care physician
  • Your oncologist
  • The laboratory employee that processed your tests
  • An administrative worker responsible for your records

Generally, any medical professional may contribute to a misdiagnosis of cancer. Doctors are not always responsible for a medical error that leads to cancer misdiagnosis.

Regardless of who is at fault, the hospital or whatever entity employs the liable party may also be liable for your damages. Your cancer misdiagnosis attorney will determine who should be responsible for your losses.

What Evidence Do You Need to Prove Medical Malpractice?

Tracing a medical error back to the at-fault party can be challenging. You will need an experienced cancer misdiagnosis attorney to collect evidence for your case, such as:

  • Medical records and test results
  • Photos of physical signs
  • Testimonies from friends and family

What Damages Can You Recover from a Cancer Misdiagnosis Lawsuit?

When a doctor fails to diagnose a severe disease, they may be liable for the patient’s losses, including:

  • Past and Future Medical Expenses: Out-of-pocket costs for hospitalization, emergency transportation, surgery, medication, chemotherapy (and other cancer treatments), and future medical bills.
  • Disability: Mobility aid expenses, rehabilitation costs, loss of income, and other related damages if the misdiagnosis leads to a disability.
  • Pain and Suffering: Compensation for physical and emotional harm, e.g., physical pain, emotional distress, mental anguish, etc.
  • Loss of Quality of Life: Compensation for quality or enjoyment of life lost due to the cancer misdiagnosis.
  • Lost Wages: Salaries, wages, benefits, and other income lost during recovery or caring for an ill loved one.
  • Scarring and Disfigurement: Compensation for economic and non-economic losses when an incorrect diagnosis leads to unnecessary surgery.
  • Wrongful Death: Funeral and burial costs, pre-death medical expenses, family members’ anguish, loss of consortium, and other related damages if your loved one dies from a cancer misdiagnosis.

Cancer misdiagnosis lawsuits have varying settlement values. Your Chicago cancer misdiagnosis lawyer will determine how much your lawsuit is worth during your initial consultation.

patient death from failure to diagnose cancer

How Our Cancer Misdiagnosis Attorneys Can Help

Medical malpractice is often difficult to prove, especially without legal help. Furthermore, you don’t need the burden of a legal battle while managing your or a loved one’s illness. Our medical malpractice lawyers can help ease your hardship by taking over the following responsibilities:

  • Investigating your medical history and identifying where the diagnostic errors occurred
  • Identifying liable parties and establishing their role in the misdiagnosis
  • Calculating the extent of your damages, e.g., medical bills, emotional distress, pain, and suffering, etc.
  • Collecting substantial evidence to support your claim
  • Filing a claim with the appropriate insurance companies
  • Negotiating a fair settlement value
  • Filing a cancer misdiagnosis lawsuit and representing you in court, if necessary

Schedule a Free Consultation with a Chicago Cancer Misdiagnosis Lawyer Today

Failure to diagnose cancer correctly and on time can prevent cancer patients from receiving proper treatment. Medical malpractice cases often cause further physical, emotional, and financial harm to patients and reduce their chances of survival.

If your doctor failed to diagnose your illness within the expected standards of care, you could recover financial compensation. Our Chicago cancer misdiagnosis lawyers can help you and your family file a medical malpractice lawsuit and obtain the justice you deserve.

Contact our medical malpractice lawyers at Rosenfeld Injury Lawyers, LLC by calling (888) 424-5757 or use the contact form for a free case evaluation with an experienced medical malpractice attorney. All confidential or sensitive information you share with our legal team will remain private under an attorney-client relationship.

Our Chicago cancer misdiagnosis lawyers handle all accepted medical malpractice cases on a contingency fee basis. Under this agreement, you don’t have to pay our legal fees unless we win your case.


Client Reviews

Jonathan Rosenfeld was professionally objective, timely, and knowledgeable. Also, his advice was extremely effective regarding my case. In addition, Jonathan was understanding and patient pertaining to any of my questions or concerns. I was very happy with the end result and I highly recommend Jonathan Rosenfeld.

- Michonne Proulx

Extremely impressed with this law firm. They took control of a bad motorcycle crash that left my uncle seriously injured. Without any guarantee of a financial recovery, they went out and hired accident investigators and engineers to help prove how the accident happened. I am grateful that they worked on a contingency fee basis as there was no way we could have paid for these services on our own.

- Ethan Armstrong

Jonathan helped my family heal and get compensation after our child was suffered a life threatening injury at daycare. He was sympathetic and in constant contact with us letting us know all he knew every step of the way. We were so blessed to find Jonathan!

- Giulia

This lawyer really helped me get compensation for my motorcycle accident case. I know there is no way that I could have gotten anywhere near the amount that Mr. Rosenfeld was able to get to settle my case. Thank you.

- Daniel Kaim

Jonathan did a great job helping my family navigate through a lengthy lawsuit involving my grandmother's death in a nursing home. Through every step of the case, Jonathan kept my family informed of the progression of the case. Although our case eventually settled at a mediation, I really was impressed at how well prepared Jonathan was to take the case to trial.

- Lisa
Free Consultation (888) 424-5757