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Chicago Cancer Misdiagnosis Attorneys

Any kind of medical misdiagnosis has the potential to be catastrophic, but the consequences are significantly more severe for a grave illness like cancer.

Almost all types of cancers are easier to treat with early detection. Cancer misdiagnosis or a delayed cancer diagnosis may lead to delayed medical treatment, which, in turn, can result in the illness becoming more severe.

More than that, misdiagnosed cancer can cause unnecessary pain and suffering, not to mention other negative impacts on patients and their families, such as lost wages, job loss, and financial ruin.

If your doctor has committed a cancer misdiagnosis, resulting in your illness becoming more severe, you may be able to sue for medical malpractice. Discuss your case with our personal injury attorneys specializing in medical malpractice cases to determine how to get the compensation you deserve.

Contact our Chicago, Illinois medical malpractice lawyers at (888) 424-5757 to schedule a free consultation and learn about your medical malpractice claim.

How Often is Cancer Misdiagnosed?

Unfortunately, cancer misdiagnosis is quite common in the United States. A study conducted on patients referred to the Mayo Clinic's General Internal Medicine Division in Rochester, Minn., found that more than 20% of patients are misdiagnosed.

Furthermore, some medical researchers believe that the actual number of cancer misdiagnoses may be higher due to cases that remain unreported or unpursued through legal action. In some cases, physicians may miss the symptoms for a few months until they recognize cancer. Even when the disease is diagnosed, the lapse does not always become a medical malpractice case.

Given the alarming frequency of cancer misdiagnosis in the US, it is essential to always seek a second opinion. Even the best doctors are not infallible when diagnosing cancer, so it’s best not to settle for only one diagnosis.

failure to diagnose may be grounds for medical malpractice

What Are The Most Commonly Misdiagnosed Cancers?

Most doctors can diagnose almost any type of cancer. However, some cancers are more prone to misdiagnosis due to their similarities to other conditions. For example, the symptoms of lung cancer can mimic those of tuberculosis and other respiratory diseases. The cancer is too rare for doctors to recognize easily in other cases.

Doctors misdiagnose cancer most frequently in these types:


According to the National Coalition on Health Care and Best Doctors, doctors believe lymphoma is the most misdiagnosed cancer.

Lymphoma starts in the lymphocytes, the cells of the immune system that are responsible for fighting infection. Lymphoma causes the lymphocytes to change and grow out of control, which compromises your immune system and leads to enlarged lymph nodes.

When caught early, lymphoma may be easy to treat. However, it is commonly misdiagnosed because of its symptoms (e.g., fever, fatigue, night sweats, etc.) resembling those of less severe conditions.

Breast Cancer

Breast cancers can be overdiagnosed, meaning doctors misdiagnose precancerous cells that won’t cause medical problems or put the patient’s life at risk, like full-blown cancer. As a result, misdiagnosed breast cancer patients are at risk of undergoing extreme treatments for no reason.

Breast cancers in the early stages have a survival rate of almost 100%. However, when doctors fail to give a correct diagnosis--or miss the cancerous cells during the mammogram--breast cancer can progress to the deadly stages.

Colon Cancer

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

Colon cancers are diagnosed via a colonoscopy, allowing doctors to view the colon from the inside using a camera. A colonoscopy can even prevent colon cancer by removing noncancerous tumors called polyps, which can develop into cancer over time.

Doctors must diagnose and treat colorectal cancer as early as possible; the survival rate falls from 91% at Stage I to only 14% at Stage IV.

Lung Cancer

Lung cancer typically develops slowly. Even though it is the second most common cancer in the United States, many patients’ lung cancer and other respiratory system cancers go undiagnosed for years.

Lung cancer is often misdiagnosed because its symptoms are similar to other respiratory problems. Family doctors may mistake shortness of breath for chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) or bloody sputum as tuberculosis when it is, in fact, lung cancer.

Skin Cancer

Skin cancer symptoms can resemble non-cancerous conditions (e.g., eczema), resulting in a cancer misdiagnosis case. Doctors who fail to test suspicious marks or growths on the skin could also allow cancer to develop into deadly stages.

Other times, skin cancer is so rare that doctors or pathologists (the professionals that analyze tissue samples for cancer cells) miss it entirely. One of the most uncommon types of skin cancer--melanoma--is among the most commonly misdiagnosed.

talk to cancer misdiagnosis lawyer

What Can Cause a Cancer Misdiagnosis?

There are many possible reasons why some doctors fail to provide accurate diagnoses for cancer. Here are some of the most common:

  • Failure to order further testing for a patient with suspicious marks or symptoms
  • Failure to take a complete medical history
  • Inability to communicate appropriately with the patient
  • Failure to offer or suggest screening
  • Inaccurate interpretation of laboratory results
  • Missing early signs and symptoms of cancer
  • Failure to refer the patient to appropriate specialists
  • Failure to recommend tests due to financial hardship
  • Mistaking cancer for a non-cancerous disease based on the symptoms the patient presents
  • Diagnosing the wrong kind of cancer

However, doctors are not always to blame for an inaccurate cancer diagnosis. Here are other reasons that can lead to misdiagnosis:

  • A laboratory employee records the wrong results
  • A health care employee makes a mistake with the patient’s medical records
  • A laboratory technician performs the test incorrectly
  • An office employee fails to update your medical information

common types of cancer misdiagnosis cases

What Happens When Cancer is Misdiagnosed?

With early detection, many patients survive many forms of cancer after receiving an accurate initial diagnosis and proper treatment. Cancer at an early stage is almost always treatable and has a high survival rate. Unfortunately, this is not always the case.

A doctor may miss the signs and symptoms of cancer, interpret lab results inaccurately, or diagnose cancer as something else entirely. Delayed diagnosis often leads to delayed treatment, negatively affecting a patient's prognosis.

In the best-case scenario, a misdiagnosis will only cause unnecessary suffering and financial strain on the patient until they find an accurate second opinion. At worst, the patient’s cancer will progress to late stages and lead to a preventable death.

Unnecessary Treatments

Sometimes, doctors may even recommend treatment that can do more harm than good. For example, a patient that receives a breast cancer misdiagnosis may undergo a mastectomy (removal of the breast) to treat cancer. According to the American Cancer Society, a mastectomy can lead to numerous side effects like hematoma and seroma, which may be needless suffering if the diagnosis is inaccurate.

A misdiagnosed patient may even undergo unnecessary chemotherapy, which would cause tremendous pain and suffering for no reason at all.

Financial Hardship

Aside from pain and suffering, erroneous treatments can also lead to unnecessary financial strain on the patient and their family. If a misdiagnosis case is proven, you may be able to sue for the expenses that would have otherwise not been needed.

Emotional Turmoil

Being diagnosed with cancer is significantly upsetting in and of itself. If misdiagnosis occurs, the emotional turmoil can multiply tenfold. You may be able to sue your physician for emotional distress and misdiagnosis.

What Are The Signs of a Cancer Misdiagnosis?

It is not easy to determine if you have received the correct diagnosis and the proper medical care. Here are the signs that might indicate that you have been misdiagnosed:

  • The doctor did not take a rigorous medical history, including your family’s medical history
  • The doctor is not willing to offer other treatment options even when your current treatment is not effective
  • The doctor refuses to listen to your concerns after the first diagnosis or answer your questions throughout the treatment process
  • The doctor did not explain the results thoroughly or order further testing to confirm their suspicions
  • The testing or screening procedures were minimal

If you suspect that you are not receiving the proper medical care, it’s best to seek a second opinion as soon as possible

cancer diagnosis errors

Inaccurate Cancer Diagnosis as Medical Malpractice

Diagnosing cancer can be challenging, even more so for rare types of cancer. Nevertheless, every doctor is responsible for exhausting every possible resource within reason to make an accurate diagnosis and provide proper medical care.

Did your doctor fail to diagnose your illness while it’s still in its early stages? Did your doctor refuse to re-analyze your case after finding the treatment ineffective? Failure to diagnose cancers or provide medical treatment counts as medical malpractice.

Patients that have suffered harm due to the negligence of their physicians may file medical malpractice cases against them. If you or a loved one are a possible victim of medical malpractice, get in contact with a lawyer to help you get legal compensation for the unnecessary suffering you have endured.

Rosenfeld Injury Lawyers’ practice areas include medical malpractice lawsuits against physicians who have misdiagnosed cancers. Call our personal injury law firm today at (888) 424-5757 to schedule a free consultation.

All information you and your loved ones share with our medical malpractice lawyers is confidential through an attorney-client relationship. As one of the best law firms in Chicago, you won’t have to pay a fee until we win your case.

patient death from failure to diagnose cancer


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