Warning Signs and Misdiagnosis of Cancer

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Out of all the diseases people today are afflicted with, cancer is one of the most frightening. In the United States alone, over 600,000 people will die from cancer every year. Millions more will survive, but will have to go through painful and exhausting medical treatments to do so.

While the majority of medical professionals work hard to deliver high-quality patient care, a negligent doctor that misdiagnoses cancer (either diagnosing cancer as another illness, or vice versa) can do irreparable harm to a person’s health, employment, and even life. If you are facing the consequences of a misdiagnosis, you deserve assistance and compensation. The following information will discuss some common warning signs of cancer, the causes and prevalence of misdiagnosis, and what you can do if a medical professional incorrectly diagnosed your condition.

What Are Common Warning Signs?

There are several known cancer types, and dozens of symptoms for each, detecting early indicators is not easy. Nevertheless, here are some symptoms that may be warning signs for the onset of cancer:

  • Pain. Cancer almost always involves pain, either in its early or later stages. Bone cancer may cause pain at the onset, and brain tumors often lead to splitting headaches.
  • Weight loss. Significant weight loss without changes to diet or lifestyle is often one of the first and most recognizable indicators.
  • Tiredness. Colon and stomach cancer often result in blood loss, which in turns results in chronic fatigue. Leukemia makes sufferers tired all the time, no matter how much they rest.
  • Fever. Many blood cancers, such as lymphoma, cause long-lasting fevers.
  • Skin changes. Melanoma often manifests as dark or unusually shaped moles on the skin. Other skin changes, such as a rash or itchy patch, could indicate the presence of another type of cancer.
  • Unusual bleeding. Tumors along your intestinal tract may lead to blood in your stool, whereas tumors in your urinary tract could result in a blood-urine mix.
  • Sores that won’t heal. Oral cancer often begins as sores in the mouth.

While none of these symptoms in and of themselves prove the existence of cancer, each one could indicate that the disease is present in the body, and is progressing.

What Are Some Common Reasons Why Cancer Symptoms Are Misdiagnosed?

Unfortunately, there are many reasons why a physician may misdiagnose cancer. These reasons could include technological failure, human error, or just sheer negligence. Some common reasons for misdiagnosis include:

  • False positives. In some cases, a mass that shows up on a radiologist’s scan is diagnosed as cancerous when it actually is not.
  • Evaluation errors. When examining the results of a CT scan, MRI, or X-ray, a physician may miss a tumor or other indications of cancer.
  • Inadequate test preparation. One common cause of misdiagnoses is failure to adequately prep a patient for a test or exam. For example, patients that are scheduled to undergo a colonoscopy must restrict their diet at least 24 hours before the procedure. If a patient fails to do so, and the attending physician/surgeon fails to double check the status of the patient’s intestines but performs the test anyway, the probability of receiving accurate results is very low.
  • Not taking symptoms/warning signs seriously. Sadly, one of the most common reasons why doctors incorrectly diagnose cancer is lack of concern over obvious symptoms. For instance, a patient may complain of chronic fatigue. Without digging deeper, the doctor may pass this off as lack of exercise. Or perhaps a strange-looking mole forms on a patient’s skin, but his physician assures him that it’s nothing to worry about. These and similar scenarios are all too common in the medical industry.

How Prevalent Is Cancer Misdiagnosis?

According to the Journal of Clinical Oncology, a cancer misdiagnosis may occur as much as 28% of the time, with some types of cancer yielding a 44% misdiagnosis rate. The leading candidates for misdiagnosis are lymphoma, breast cancer, sarcomas, and melanoma. In addition, delayed diagnosis errors are common in lung, breast, and colorectal cancers.

How Costly Is Treatment?

cancer patient reviewing options with doctor
A cancer patient discussing options with her doctor.

Cancer treatment is usually very costly. In many cases, a treatment plan encompasses a number of procedures conducted over several months, or even years. Studies have found that the average cost for cancer treatment may run into the $150,000 range – and that’s not necessarily including the cost of novel cancer therapy agents, which could cost a patient over $60,000 per month. 

Of course, the treatment costs don’t factor in lost wages, lower quality of life, and missed opportunities to spend time with family and friends. Moreover, if a medical professional incorrectly diagnoses cancer as another condition and causes a delay in proper treatment, cancer will likely grow and spread, leading to even higher costs and greater suffering.

What Can You Do If a Medical Professional Misdiagnosed You?

It’s true that not every misdiagnose and mistake that a medical professional makes is equivalent to negligence. Unfortunately, mistakes happen; and sometimes despite a doctor’s best efforts, bad outcomes result.

However, if your doctor provided you with a sub-par standard of medical care (in other words, if another similarly-trained doctor would have correctly identified your symptoms and given a correct diagnosis), then you may very well be entitled to compensation for his negligence. Under such circumstances, you should not feel bad for seeking legal redress. Instead, you should do all that you can to recoup your financial, physical, and emotional losses, and gain closure as you start on the long road to recovery.


At Weltchek, Mallahan and Weltchek, we’ll fight to ensure that a negligent doctor is held accountable for his actions. We’ll work along with you every step of the way to ensure that you can enjoy the highest quality of life possible after a cancer misdiagnosis. Reach out to our team of caring medical malpractice experts today to learn more.

Who Can You Trust with Your Case?

Have you or a loved one been injured due to negligence? We want to help. Don’t hesitate to contact us if you believe you have a case; time is an important factor. Interested in learning more? Get in touch with us so we can better evaluate and serve your needs in getting the justice your loved one deserves. You may very well be entitled to compensation.


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