Unfortunately, cancer is commonly misdiagnosed. Researchers for the National Coalition on Health Care found that while the majority of doctors believe the rates for misdiagnosis of cancer to be very low (between 0 and 10 percent), in reality, about 28 percent of cancers are misdiagnosed. About 1.3 million people in the United States receive a diagnosis of cancer each year.
That diagnosis usually comes from a pathologist who has never actually met the person but has analyzed the patient’s tissues in the lab. Researchers at Johns Hopkins in Baltimore, Maryland, reviewed tissue samples from more than 6,000 patients across the country. During those reviews, the researchers found that one out of every 71 cases of cancer was misdiagnosed, whether being diagnosed as cancer when it was not, or failure to diagnose cancer.
Costs Associated with a Misdiagnosis of Cancer
The costs associated with a cancer diagnosis are extremely high, no matter how the diagnosis comes. For those whose diagnosis comes after the cancer has spread and increased in severity due to a late diagnosis, the cost will only go up.
Unfortunately, particularly for misdiagnosed cancers which have spread, the costs can be prohibitive, leaving the patient and his or her family wondering how they will pay for necessary procedures. Recently the FDA approved a treatment for melanoma—one of the deadliest cancers, especially when it goes undiagnosed. While the drug does appear to shrink tumors in as many as 60 percent of patients, the cost is estimated to be $141,000 for the first 12 weeks of treatment, and about $256,000 for an entire year of treatment.
A 2014 study published in The Lancet found that even those with very good insurance coverage in the U.S. may incur such a high level of out-of-pocket costs for cancer treatments, they simply have no way of paying their bills. Even worse, uninsured cancer patients can pay twice as much for doctor appointments and a staggering 43 times as much for chemotherapy as those with insurance will pay.
Many patients are forced to choose between more successful, expensive treatments and less effective, but more affordable treatments. Sadly, cancer patients who find themselves with a diagnosis of a serious cancer due to a late diagnosis or misdiagnosis may have no choice but to spend their precious time and energy working out financial issues before they can begin life-saving treatments.
The American Institute of Cancer Research believes cancer costs the world more money than any other disease—about $895 billion annually. The average price for a cancer patient to receive one more year of life once the cancer has spread is more than $207,000. Nearly half of that could go toward paying for chemotherapy. About 11 percent of the costs associated with serious forms of cancer are for prescription drugs, while about half of the costs are for outpatient and doctor visits and 35 percent for inpatient hospital stays.
A cancer patient may feel as though their life, aside from dealing with harsh cancer treatments and attempting to keep some semblance of their regular life, is a never-ending stream of bills associated with their cancer. There are hospital and clinic visits, medicines and prescription drugs, laboratory tests, the actual cancer treatments, surgical procedures, reconstructive procedures, home health services and end-of-life care. These costs do not even include the gas, parking expenses, lodging and meals while away from home to get treatment, as well as things like child care costs, and the cost of special equipment, special clothing and special nutritional supplements. As you can see, the costs associated with cancer are extremely high, but when the cancer is diagnosed much later than it should have been, those costs go even higher.
Hartford County Misdiagnosis
Consider the 2012 case of a Hartford County woman who saw her OB/GYN for her yearly visit, at which time the exam showed an enlarged uterus, however no explanation or diagnosis was offered. The next year during her regular visit, the doctor noted the uterus was even more enlarged. The third year the woman told her doctor she was experiencing abdominal pain and a swollen uterus, and he advised that she undergo a hysterectomy.
Two months later, an ultrasound was finally ordered after the woman returned to her doctor, complaining of pelvic pain. The woman was subsequently diagnosed with ovarian cancer, and later sued the doctor, claiming he failed to adhere to a regular standard of care, resulting in her cancer growing and becoming difficult to treat over the course of three years. The parties agreed to a $650,000 settlement. Because ovarian cancer is very deadly when it is discovered later rather than sooner, the settlement this woman received might only have made a dent in her actual cancer expenses—not to mention her chances of living would have been hugely higher if the cancer had been diagnosed on her first visit.
When You are the Victim of a Cancer Misdiagnosis or Late Diagnosis
If you feel your Washington D.C., Maryland or Virginia doctor failed to pay attention to your symptoms, and you later found out you had cancer which had progressed to a much more serious stage, it could be beneficial to speak to an experienced medical malpractice attorney in the area. If your doctor has told you that you are “fine” but you continue to have symptoms you know are not normal, get a second opinion as soon as possible. Doctors can make mistakes and pathologists can make mistakes, whether those mistakes are “honest” mistakes or the result of negligence is the question.
Contact Washington DC Medical Malpractice Lawyers
At Patrick Malone & Associates, our medical malpractice lawyers have extensive experience representing injured patients and families in Washington, DC metro area, Virginia, and throughout the State of Maryland. If you or someone you love believes your cancer was misdiagnosed or undiagnosed, we can help. Call us at 1-202-742-1500 or 1-888-625-6635 or fill out our confidential contact form for a FREE Consultation and review of your case.
The medical malpractice attorneys at Patrick Malone & Associates have successfully represented injured individuals in Washington, DC, Arlington, Alexandria, Annapolis, Rockville, Baltimore, Richmond, Fairfax, and many other places in Maryland and Virginia.