Lung cancer can be caused by a number of factors — most commonly cigarette smoking, asbestos exposure, and radon gas exposure. Sometimes, lung cancer can be difficult to correctly diagnose, largely because most people have no symptoms of the disease when it’s in its early stages. This lack of symptoms makes it easy to miss a diagnosis — unfortunately at a time when the disease is the most treatable.
At other times, lung cancer may be altogether misdiagnosed because its symptoms are confused with other conditions, such as asthma, pneumonia, bronchitis, or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. In addition, lung cancer may also occur at the same time as one of these illnesses, making it even more difficult to diagnose. In these cases, the diagnosis might not be made until the patient returns with complaints that the symptoms have not gone away after receiving treatment.
Under some circumstances, a lung cancer misdiagnosis can fall into the category of medical malpractice. In fact, the failure to diagnose lung cancer ranks high on the list of common malpractice lawsuits. Most often, the argument for medical malpractice stems from the complaint that the doctor failed to identify a specific symptom commonly associated with lung cancer and order follow-up tests, such as:
- A biopsy
- Chest X-ray
- Other body scan
If a patient believes that a lung cancer misdiagnosis qualifies as medical malpractice, certain steps must be taken to prove the claim. The patient must be able to prove four things:
- That a doctor-patient relationship existed
- The doctor acted negligently
- The negligence (or lack of reasonable treatment) caused the injury
- The injury led to specific physical conditions
Often, the most difficult part of proving a medical malpractice claim lies in demonstrating the doctor’s negligence. It’s usually necessary to show that a competent doctor would have discovered the lung cancer in a timely manner and would have pursued treatment that likely would have had a better outcome.
If you are considering filing a medical malpractice suit for a lung cancer misdiagnosis, it’s important to be aware of your state’s statute of limitations on filing such claims. In Pennsylvania, the statute of limitations is two years from the date of diagnosis. Contact an experienced Philadelphia personal injury lawyer right away to learn more.