Failure to Diagnose Lung Cancer

Lung cancer is curable if it is diagnosed early. Lung cancer is cancer that forms in tissues of the lung, usually in the cells lining air passages. The two main types are small cell lung cancer and non-small cell lung cancer. Non-small cell lung cancer comprises 80% of lung cancers. The types of tumors included in this group include: adenocarcinoma; squamous cell carcinoma; large cell carcinoma; and bronchoalveolar carcinoma. These types are diagnosed based on how the cells look under a microscope following a biopsy. The National Cancer Institute estimates that approximately 220,000 new cases of lung cancer will be diagnosed each year. Our lung cancer lawyers have extensive experience in handling lung cancer lawsuits.

When there has been a failure to make a timely diagnose of lung cancer, the person who is most often responsible is either the family physician or a radiologist. The most frequent acts of malpractice that result in a delay in diagnosis are: the family doctor or the primary care physician mis-read the chest x-ray and failed to appreciate what the x-ray showed; the physician who ordered the x-ray received a report of an abnormality on an x-ray and failed to read, or appreciate the significance of, the report; or when a recognized sign or symptom receives inadequate attention. The most common symptoms of lung cancer can include any of the following: a cough that does not go away; chest pain aggravated by deep breathing; hoarseness; unexplained weight loss and loss of appetite; coughing up blood (hemoptysis); difficulty breathing (dyspnea); recurring bronchitis or pneumonia; or a new onset of wheezing. The most powerful risk factor for lung cancer is smoking (including second-hand exposure). In addition, certain occupations, such as those involving exposure to asbestos, uranium, arsenic, chromium, nickel, acrylonitrile, beryllium, cadmium, chloromethyl ether, silica, radon and diesel exhaust are known occupational risks for lung cancer. Family history is also a well-documented risk factor.

When a patient's history and symptoms are suggestive of lung cancer, a chest x-ray (PA and Lateral) should be ordered, along with laboratory studies (including serum calcium, alkaline phosphatase and liver function tests) and pulmonary function tests. A normal chest x-ray (or CT scan) does not exclude lung cancer. Diagnosis requires histological confirmation. Lung tissue for that purpose is usually obtained by bronchoscopy or sputum cystology.

The most frequent act of malpractice among radiologists is the failure to comment on an abnormality that appears on a chest x-ray. Simply stated, the radiologist simply failed to see the cancer that was demonstrated on the film. This occurs so frequently, that some studies have demonstrated that approximately 25% of lung cancers are missed when the x-ray is first read. Another act of malpractice that frequently occurs is the failure to appropriately track an abnormality once it has been seen on an x-ray. This most often occurs in the case when a "solitary pulmonary nodule" (a relatively spherical opacity 3 cm or less in diameter) is observed on the x-ray and the patient has no other significant symptoms. The generally accepted standard of care requires that a "solitary pulmonary nodule" be considered cancerous until proven otherwise.

Despite typical symptoms and a number of available tests, lung cancer remains undiagnosed until the late stages far too often. The result of a delay in diagnosis for this illness can be devastating and is sometimes fatal. The sooner lung cancer is diagnosed and treated (Stage I or II, for example), generally, the better the outcome for the patient. The experienced Ohio lung cancer misdiagnosis lawyers at The O’Keefe Firm have a track record of success in failure to diagnose cases. Our attorneys rely on medical experts to help review their client’s cases and determine where errors were made in diagnosis and treatment. If your physician failed to diagnose your lung cancer or misdiagnosed it initially, you may be able to hold them liable for their negligence. Contact our lung cancer attorneys today for a free consultation.

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