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Diagnosis errors increase the death toll of cancer

Most Illinois residents are aware that many types of cancer are treatable and survivable if diagnosed in their early stages. New and more effective treatments are being devised to combat many cancers, but if they are not administered in time, they are useless. This is at least partly why diagnosis errors increase the death toll of the disease.

Once cancer metastasizes (spreads) to other parts of the body, the patient's chances of survival drop exponentially. Therefore, diagnosing the disease as soon as possible is crucial. Research shows that three main factors prevent early detection.

The first is that patients do not immediately seek medical attention for symptoms that could point to cancer. Even when a patient does go to a doctor right away, if that doctor fails to correctly interpret the symptoms, diagnosis could be delayed. Last, if the doctor does not believe there is any reason to suspect cancer, he or she would most likely not order testing that would correctly identify the patient's condition as cancer. For example, not ordering imaging tests to be done to locate suspicious masses or not having a biopsy done if a mass if found could delay a diagnosis and, thus, delay life-saving treatment.

These types of diagnosis errors might not be significant if the patient has the flu or a sinus infection. However, they are significant if it is discovered that the patient has cancer and the odds of survival have dropped to a dangerous level. Illinois residents who find themselves in this situation might consider filing a medical malpractice claim. If it is established the care received was substandard, an award of damages could be made.

Source:, "Righting the Wrong: Failure to Diagnose Cancer Lawsuits", April 4, 2016

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