Reaching an accurate diagnosis can take quite a bit of time. The first step in the process usually involves a doctor discussing symptoms and concerns with the patient. They then have the option of ordering special medical tests. Modern diagnostic tools include imaging tests like X-rays and MRIs, culture tests and even genetic sequencing tests.
With so many tools available, it has never been easier for physicians to reach a conclusive, affirmative diagnosis for their patients. Unfortunately, diagnostic errors are still a major concern. For those with cancer, diagnostic failures and delays can lead to very poor medical outcomes.
Cancer can start spreading quickly
Some forms of cancer take decades to develop. However, once they start causing symptoms, they may start spreading and worsening quite rapidly. Some cancers can go from a localized, easy-to-treat health concern to a deadly, widespread cancer in a few months.
Physicians therefore need to rule out concerns like cancer when diagnosing people with symptoms that could come from any number of potential sources. If a doctor diagnoses someone with the flu instead of testing them for lung cancer, for example, the individual may lose the opportunity to try less invasive, cutting-edge treatments and may have few options other than chemotherapy and radiation, both of which often have a host of painful and debilitating side effects.
In some cases, medical professionals don’t even realize there’s been a cancer-related diagnostic error until after someone dies and the hospital performs an autopsy.
Diagnostic failures are grounds for malpractice claims
When a doctor fails in their obligation to a patient by rushing to conclusions rather than following standard diagnostic protocols, their failure may play a direct role in the poor medical outcome for that patient. Both individuals struggling with cancer after diagnostic delays and the family members of someone who didn’t receive a diagnosis and proper treatment may be able to pursue a medical malpractice claim against a specific physician or a facility where a major mistake occurred.
Understanding that diagnostic errors are often preventable and are, therefore, often a form of medical malpractice can help people recognize when they have grounds to seek justice.