“In a Harvard study of malpractice claims in the U.S., cancer was
far and away the most misdiagnosed illness, primarily breast and colorectal,”
CNN reported in 2007. “Study authors attributed this to doctors failing
to stick to cancer screening guidelines.”

If a doctor misdiagnosed your cancer, attorney Chris Mellino welcomes you
to contact our Cleveland office with any questions you may have about
filing a claim, including whether you still have time under Ohio’s
statute of limitations.

Cancer Symptoms

In a healthy body, older and damaged cells quit dividing and die. Young,
healthy cells replace them.

“However, sometimes this orderly process goes wrong,” the National
Cancer Institute states on its website. “The genetic material (DNA)
of a cell can become damaged or changed, producing mutations that affect
normal cell growth and division. When this happens, cells do not die when
they should and new cells form when the body does not need them. The extra
cells may form a mass of tissue called a tumor.”

Malignant tumors cause cancer.

According to the American Cancer Society, the disease “can cause
almost any sign or symptom.” Generally, a patient may:

  • drop 10 pounds without effort (most commonly associated with pancreas,
    stomach, esophagus, or lung cancer);
  • develop a fever (often indicative of leukemia or lymphoma);
  • feel extremely tired despite getting plenty of rest;
  • feel pain (such as an unending headache, which could indicate a brain tumor,
    or back pain, which could indicate colon or ovarian cancer);
  • have darkened, yellowed, or reddened skin;
  • itch.

MedicineNet reported October 14, 2010, women should be wary of frequent bloating,
pelvic pain, breast or lymph node changes, between-period bleeding, and
abdominal pain with concurrent depression.

Cancer Misdiagnosis: Reasons and Statistics

Medical malpractice claims for cancer misdiagnosis have cited the following:

  • a malignant tumor diagnosed as benign (or vice versa);
  • lab results that were misinterpreted;
  • failure to order screenings and tests for at-risk patients;
  • faulty or defective medical equipment, such as mammography machines; and
  • doctors who failed to listen to a patient’s complaints.

“The top reasons,” according to a 2013 study by Best Doctors
and the National Coalition on Health Care, “were fragmented or missing
information across medical information systems (38.5 percent), inadequate
pathology diagnostic resources (22 percent), and inadequate genetic/genomic
information available at the time of diagnosis (20.3 percent).”

Registered nurse Robin Gray filed a medical malpractice lawsuit after her
breast cancer went undiagnosed for 17 months, despite seeking second,
third, and even fourth opinions on her screenings, and the fact the 38-year-old
woman’s grandmother had died from the disease.

“My story is not uncommon!” she told
About.com. “At least 10,000 women per year are misdiagnosed with breast cancer
and most of these women are young! Physicians commonly misdiagnose young
women due to age bias where breast cancer is not expected in a young woman,
as the median age for a breast cancer diagnosis is 63 years old.”
Consequently, she said, doctors neglect to run the tests they should run
to determine whether a lump is truly a cyst.

In a press release, Best Doctors Chairman and Chief Executive Officer David
Seligman declined to blame indifference or incompetence for a misdiagnosis, per
bostonmagazine.com. Instead, he stated, “[D]octors today are increasingly time-strapped.
Many of them are seeing up to 30 patients a day. They’re working
in an overburdened health system with fractured or incomplete medical
records. All of these things too often directly impact health outcomes
– no matter how dedicated or skilled the physician may be.”

BMJ Quality & Safety recently estimated that doctors
misdiagnose cancer 28 percent of the time.

Cancer Misdiagnosis Lawsuits in the News

Sometimes, rather than dismiss a symptom as something else, doctors go
the other extreme and tell patients they have an untreatable form of cancer
when, in fact, their prognosis isn’t as dire. For instance, June
14, 2013,
bangordailynews.com reported that a man had been told he had pancreatic cancer, but he actually
had non-Hodgkins lymphoma. Four years later, a jury awarded him $200,000
in damages, even though his lawsuit had only asked for $150,000.

“They understood how devastating this news was,” his attorney
told reporters.

In 2010,
Fierce Healthcare reported that a hospital misdiagnosed an 85-year-old woman’s stomachache
as inoperable stomach and lung cancer, since she was too old for chemo.
About seven months later, tests revealed that she didn’t have either
disease. At this point, however, a nursing home had drugged her with morphine
for so long that she’d become delusional, according to her daughter,
and her husband left her. A lawyer told the media that he would be filing
“a multimillion dollar malpractice suit.”

Attorney Chris Mellino’s Cancer Lawsuit Settlements

As the
Plain Dealer reported October 15, 1999, a jury awarded Chris Mellino’s client,
Rita Radovanic, $4.1 million after Mednet Physicians Inc., owned by University
Hospitals Health System, failed to diagnose cancer before it spread. “[She] will probably die of advanced uterine cancer in the next two years because
her doctor misread the symptoms,” the paper stated.

In another case, 54-year-old Mattie Kellogg died of a blood infection five
days after she underwent surgery. “Her doctor failed to diagnose
the leukemia she had,” Chris and his former partner told reporters.
A jury awarded the woman’s family $2.4 million.

To learn more about cancer misdiagnosis lawsuits our Cleveland office has
handled, attorney Chris Mellino welcomes you to contact us. You may also
download or
request Chris’ free, easy-to-read guide to filing a medical malpractice
claim in Ohio.