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“Diagnostic difficulty” may sway delayed cancer diagnosis cases

On Behalf of Cronin & Maxwell

Cancer is a medical problem that needs a swift, accurate diagnosis. Catching cancer in its early stages may often be the key to survival. Unfortunately, some doctors fail to provide a diagnosis until treatment is much more difficult or nearly impossible. Each day without treatment increases a patient’s risk.

Although cancer can sometimes show unclear symptoms, doctors must reasonably examine the likelihood that their patient suffers this time-sensitive illness. Misdiagnosis or delayed diagnosis often result in tragic loss, serious injury, extra medical bills and eventually malpractice lawsuits. However, the type of cancer could play a role in whether those lawsuits are successful.

According to medical experts, some cancers are harder to diagnose than others. For example, a patient with undetected pancreatic cancer may see their physician with complaints of stomach pain. Realistically, the physician is not liable for failing to immediately realize the severity of the problem because stomach pain has many potential causes. They must still follow up with any relevant tests and exams that are part of standard care.

However, a judge may hold a doctor accountable if they do not pay attention to obvious symptoms that indicate “easier-to-diagnose” types, such as breast cancer. Patients should not be subject to excessive appointments with a general practitioner before they see a specialist for their condition. In fact, 80% of cancer patients are referred to specialists after only one or two appointments. Additional consultations sometimes indicate a malpractice issue.

The emphasis on “diagnostic difficulty” can help courts understand the difference between a complex medical situation and blatant negligence. Doctors can’t always be perfect, but the law requires them to be attentive and knowledgeable while practicing medicine in Florida.

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