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Home / PA / Cancer Misdiagnosis / Lung Cancer Misdiagnosis

If a doctor fails to diagnose, or incorrectly diagnoses, a patient with lung cancer the consequences can be catastrophic. A delayed diagnosis has the potential to be the difference between life and death. If you or a family member have suffered because of a doctor’s incorrect, missed, or delayed lung cancer diagnosis you may be eligible to receive compensation for your medical expenses, lost wages, and pain and suffering through a medical malpractice lawsuit.

Contact the experienced cancer misdiagnosis lawyers at the Jacob Fuchsberg Law Firm to discuss your legal rights. Our attorneys have helped thousands of families recover compensation after the unimaginable happens, including lung cancer misdiagnosis claims. Contact us online or call 212-869-3500 today for a free consultation.

How Does a Lung Cancer Misdiagnosis Happen?

Lung cancer is an unfortunately common and lethal type of cancer. According to the American Cancer Society, about 235,760 new lung cancer cases arise per year. Of those, there are 131,880 deaths from it, including 69,410 in men and 62,470 in women. There is a new diagnosis every 150 seconds.

Early diagnosis raises your survival chances; if caught in the early stages, lung cancer has an 80 to 90 percent cure rate. But if your doctor misses the signs and delays your treatment, your chances drop, and you suffer worse due to no fault of your own.

Despite the latest in medical technology and the common occurrence of lung cancer, doctors frequently misdiagnose it. These mistakes cause stress and prevent you from receiving needed treatment.

Misdiagnosis often happens in the following ways:

  1. Misread imaging tests. Doctors may miss cancer on a CT scan, MRI, X-ray, or PET scan. This situation arises from an overreliance on a chest x-ray or other scans; doctors review them and decide the mass on the image is not cancer and do not take further tests to confirm that. Or they may conclude the mass is cancer without verification.
  2. Confusion with a benign condition. After a physical exam, doctors may conclude that you suffer from a benign condition instead of cancer. Gastric reflux, COPD, and asthma are commonly confused with lung cancer because they share similar symptoms. Patients undergo treatment for these conditions, only for them not to work. By the time doctors start more extensive diagnostic tests, they already wasted valuable time, and your recovery chances decrease.
  3. Failure to follow-up. Sometimes, a test or x-ray shows possible malignancy, including lymph node enlargement or lung nodules. If a doctor does not follow up on these abnormalities, they may miss a lung cancer diagnosis. Meanwhile, you do not feel better and keep pursuing further testing and treatment to no avail.
  4. Dismissal of patient’s claims. In the most egregious misdiagnosis cases, doctors fail to listen to their patients. They either believe their patient is exaggerating or decide the symptoms link to another cause and refuse to investigate further. If you feel dismissed, it is crucial to insist on a second opinion and receive additional tests. However, if you face this hurdle, it is valuable time missed for treatment, and it risks your lung cancer becoming much worse.

Common Diseases and Symptoms That Mimic Lung Cancer

There are two challenges with diagnosing lung cancer: it varies in severity, and its symptoms mimic other illnesses. Some patients do not show any signs of lung cancer in the early very-treatable stages.

Common lung cancer symptoms include:

  • Chronic cough
  • Chest pain
  • Hoarse voice or other voice changes
  • Sudden and unexplained weight loss
  • Chronic headaches
  • Wheezing
  • Shortness of breath
  • Coughing up blood

None of these symptoms are unique to lung cancer. Other illnesses start as mimicking lung cancer symptoms, and doctors diagnose them before considering cancer. These diseases include:

  • Asthma
  • Pneumonia
  • Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD)
  • Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD)
  • Acid reflux
  • Encysted lung effusion
  • Abscesses or nodules in lungs
  • Lymphoma
  • Thoracic Hodgkin’s disease
  • Pulmonary embolism
  • Tuberculosis (TD)

Since lung cancer is treatable in its early stages and less so in later ones, chances of survival drop and late-diagnosed patients face more invasive and aggressive treatment. Patients often develop more severe and untreatable lung cancers as their conditions remain untreated. Patients who may have survived if their doctors followed through with diagnosis may face a death sentence merely due to one mistake by one radiologist, doctor, nurse, or other medical professionals.

Patients also risk hospital negligence as they receive treatment that would not have been necessary if their doctors diagnosed cancers earlier. Botched surgeries, misread charts, or lack of medication are examples of breaches of healthcare standards in hospitals that may befall cancer patients.

What Steps Do I Take if I Was Misdiagnosed?

If you believe your doctor misdiagnosed you, knowledge is power, and you need to push for options. But if these efforts result in further misdiagnosis or a late lung cancer diagnosis, you need to hire a medical malpractice attorney soon.

Get a Second Opinion

A second opinion from an oncologist (cancer specialist) is crucial after a misdiagnosis. It is the only way to know for sure about your health, and it can help you in a cancer misdiagnosis lawsuit later. Specific situations calling for a second opinion include:

  • Your doctor cannot determine the type or extent of your cancer.
    Your doctor seems to dismiss your symptoms or underestimate the seriousness of your condition.
    You face a rare form of lung cancer.
    Your doctor is not a specialist.
    You believe there are other treatment options available.

If you see a good oncologist, you will undergo thorough testing and have access to more treatments. Otherwise, you risk cancer spreading and evolving into the later stages. If you do not receive this care, find another doctor.

You can find an oncologist either through the American Society of Clinical Oncology or the American Medical Association.

Know Lung Cancer Types & Stages

Knowing lung cancer stages and types can help you communicate with specialists and get back on track with your diagnosis. When you see a specialist, you can be sure to ask the right questions and assess whether they will test you thoroughly.

There are three types of lung cancer. They include two common types and one less-common type:

  • Small cell lung cancer (SCLC)
  • Non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC)
  • Carcinoid lung cancer

SCLC comprises 20 percent of diagnosed lung cancers, and it is quicker-growing cancer. It has two stages:

  • Limited. Cancer present in one lung and sometimes in lymph nodes.
  • Extensive. Cancer present in both lungs, the fluid around the lung, and other organs in the body.

Doctors rate NSCLC on the TNM system: Tumor (T), Node (N), and Metastasis. Each element rates on a scale of zero to four, with the highest numbers being the most severe. For example, an N1 score is a smaller node than an N2 score.

NSCLC also has stages including:

  • Occult stage: Cancer cells are present in sputum, but there are no tumors on the lungs, or the tumors are too small to detect.
  • Stage 0: This stage is carcinoma in situ. The tumors are small, and cancer has not spread to other organs or into deep lung tissue.
  • Stage 1: Cancer detected in lung tissues but has not spread to lymph nodes.
  • Stage 2: Cancer detected in lymph nodes or chest wall.
  • Stage 3: Cancer spreads from the lungs into lymph nodes and nearby organs, including the heart, trachea, and esophagus.
  • Stage 4: The most advanced stage where cancer metastasized beyond the lungs and into other body areas. About 40 percent of patients receive their diagnosis at this stage, and their five-year survival rate is less than 10 percent.

Carcinoid lung cancer describes tumors that develop in the lungs. They are the least common cancer, and they grow slower than the other types of cancer. They start in the neuroendocrine cells and usually stay in the lungs.

Contact a Medical Malpractice Attorney

Many victims of lung cancer misdiagnosis are in Stage 4. They often went through the ordeal of trying to get a doctor to test and diagnose them correctly, only to discover their cancer at a late and extensive stage. If this happened to you, contact a medical malpractice attorney as soon as possible. Our attorneys and network of experts can review your case and see if your doctors fell short on finding and treating your cancer.

Common Misdiagnosed Lung Cancer Treatment

If you have a medical malpractice claim linked to a missed lung cancer diagnosis, part of your damages is medical costs. Your medical treatment will be more aggressive and expensive than if your doctor detected lung cancer earlier.

Once diagnosed with lung cancer, you may undergo any of the following treatment methods:

  • Surgery. If cancer remains in your lungs, surgery is a likely option. Your surgeon may perform a wedge resection, which removes a small section containing the tumor as well as some healthy tissue. Segmental resection removes more significant portions of your lung but never an entire lobe. A lobectomy removes a lobe in one lung, and severe cases may require a pneumonectomy or the removal of one lung. Your surgeon may also remove lymph nodes from your chest to check and see if cancer spread outside your lungs.
  • Radiation. This therapy uses high-power energy beams to kill cancer cells. It is a common treatment before and after surgery to address locally advanced cancer. If cancer spreads to other areas of your body, radiation therapy may relieve pain symptoms.
  • Chemotherapy. Chemotherapy involves using intravenous drugs to kill cancer cells. Depending on your treatment plan, you may use one or multiple drugs to target cancer. It is effective after surgery if cancer remains and often accompanies radiation therapy. If your cancer is advanced, chemotherapy helps relieve pain symptoms.
    Stereotactic body radiotherapy. Commonly known as radiosurgery, this therapy is effective for patients who are poor surgery candidates. It involves intense radiation focused at many angles of cancer growth. This treatment works well on small cancers and cancer that spreads to other parts of the body, including the brain.
  • Targeted drug therapy. These treatments work by blocking abnormalities within cancer cells, which kills them. It only works for lung cancer containing specific genetic mutations and is often reserved for those facing advanced or recurrent cancer.
  • Immunotherapy. Your immune system does not attack cancer cells because they release proteins that keep them from being noticed. However, if you use immunotherapy, it blocks the proteins and allows your immune system to fight cancer. It works for locally advanced lung cancer and cancer that spread to other organs.
  • Palliative care. Palliative care manages cancer symptoms and side effects of drug, radiation, or chemotherapy treatment. Your doctor refers you to a palliative care team after your diagnosis to help your comfort levels as you receive treatment. Those receiving palliative care early often enjoy a higher quality of life during cancer treatment.

Do I Have a Lung Cancer Misdiagnosis Lawsuit?

It is vital to see a medical malpractice attorney as soon as possible if you believe your doctor failed to diagnose your lung cancer. These cases are complex and often take a long time to compile. So, the sooner we get started, the better case we can build on your behalf.

Requirements to Prove Medical Malpractice

If you believe you have a claim against a doctor who railed to diagnose lung cancer, you must prove:

  • The doctor owed you a duty of care.
  • You were that doctor’s patient.
  • Your doctor did not meet the accepted standard of care.
  • Failure to meet that standard resulted in injury or financial, physical, mental, or other damage.

Examples of breaches of accepted medical care standards include:

  • Failure to detect reasonably apparent lung cancer symptoms that another doctor would identify
  • Failure to order testing or imaging, even though another doctor would follow through on these procedures after observing your symptoms
  • Test result errors due to breach of protocol or procedure
  • Failure to follow through on laboratory recommendations regarding additional testing on test results, including tissue sample biopsies
  • Laboratory failure to identify or assess abnormal cell activity, e.g., abnormal growth patterns in tissue biopsies

How Long Do You Have to Sue a Doctor?

New York has a two-year and six-month statute of limitations on medical malpractice claims. The time starts from the date your doctor misdiagnosed your cancer or when treatment ends.

What Damages May Be Included for Misdiagnosis?

Your damages for lung cancer misdiagnosis may include:

  • Past, present, and future medical expenses
  • Lost wages from missing work
  • Loss of earning capacity due to disability or long-term symptoms
  • Pain and suffering
  • Reduced quality or enjoyment of life
  • Loss of consortium or loss of companionship

If your lawsuit concerns a loved one who died after a lung cancer misdiagnosis, you may secure additional damages. Besides the list above, you can also collect for loss of future income and support and further pain and suffering. While it is uncommon in medical malpractice cases, you may even secure punitive damages if medical neglect was intentional and especially egregious.

You may have additional claims, including hospital negligence if improper care, botched surgeries, misread medical records, or any other mistake results in worsening your condition. That is why you need to hire an experienced attorney to look at your case and find the different ways you can receive compensation for your damages.

Our Lung Cancer Misdiagnosis Lawyers Can Help When The Unimaginable Happens

The Cancer Misdiagnosis Lawyers at Jacob Fuchsberg Law Firm are ready to assess your case and help you secure the compensation you deserve. If you believe you fell victim to lung cancer misdiagnosis and face a dire prognosis due to that negligence, time is of the essence, and you need to schedule an appointment soon. Contact us online or call 212-869-3500 today to schedule a free consultation.

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