Doctors can approach diagnosis in one of two ways. In some cases, they can rule out specific causes of a condition until only one cause remains. This is a diagnosis of exclusion. When a physician is able to perform a test that gives a conclusive answer, such as a biopsy that affirms the presence of cancerous tissue, that is an affirmative diagnosis.
All too often, doctors fall short of obtaining an affirmative diagnosis and instead hastily reach a diagnosis of exclusion. For example, a common cold could cause a cough, but so could lung cancer. If a doctor just assumes cancer isn’t the cause, the patient could go weeks or months without treatment. Why is a delayed diagnosis such a serious concern?
Cancer spreads and worsens rapidly in some cases
There are more than a hundred different kinds of cancer, and some of them can be highly aggressive. Doctors often categorize cancer in stages based on how far the cancer has spread. In later stage cancers, the cancerous tissue has begun to metastasize or spread to other parts of the body.
Cancer becomes more difficult to treat when it is no longer localized. Bigger tumors can also cause worse symptoms for patients. The best and most effective treatments are often only available to those who discover their cancer early in its development, which means that a doctor failing to diagnose a patient might limit their treatment options or even directly contribute to their preventable death.
Failing to diagnose cancer is a serious oversight on the part of a physician. If this has happened to you or a loved one, an experienced attorney can provide guidance on whether you have grounds for a medical malpractice claim