Failure to Diagnose Breast Cancer

New Jersey Failure to Diagnose Breast Cancer Lawyers

Cancer—it’s one of those words that stops most of us in our tracks. And when we combine breast with cancer, we have a phrase that women probably fear most. The numbers are certainly sobering: the chance of a woman having invasive breast cancer some point during her life is about 1 in 8; the chance of dying from breast cancer is about 1 in 36, according to the American Cancer Society. It’s difficult not to go to that “worst case scenario” place in our minds nor imagine months of suffering through medical treatments.

But the numbers can also tell a very different story. When we discuss breast cancer, it’s easy to forget that great strides have occurred in the prevention, detection, and treatment of breast cancer and that people now are living with breast cancer and leading long, productive lives. In fact, the American Cancer Society reports that there are more than 2.9 million breast cancer survivors in the United States. Medical experts universally agree, however, that much of the success of treatment has to do with early diagnosis.

Early Detection & Diagnosis Makes the Difference

In treating cancer, the goal is to find cancer before it starts to cause symptoms. Screening tests that detect breast cancer can save thousands of lives annually. Unfortunately, if cancer is not detected in an early stage, the prognosis and survival rates are much less hopeful. When a doctor or radiologist fails to diagnose breast cancer, medical malpractice is apparent. Mammograms, ultrasounds, MRIs, and clinical breast exams by a health expert are instrumental in discovering lumps or masses. But, these tests are only as effective as the medical provider interpreting the results. If the doctor fails to diagnose breast cancer or doesn’t order the screening tests despite compelling evidence or risk of cancer, then negligence has occurred. With many diseases or conditions, time plays a vital role in potential outcomes. This is especially true in the treatment of breast cancer. The medical experts agree that the earlier cancer is diagnosed and treated, the better chance the patient has to recover and live a normal life. When a diagnosis is missed or delayed, the disease has time to grow and spread which may cause the patient to need multiple surgeries, painful and prolonged treatments, or to prematurely lose his or her battle with cancer. A doctor is not responsible for a patient having cancer. But, a physician can be responsible for cancer misdiagnosis and the consequences of cancer misdiagnosis.

How Does Failure to Diagnose Cancer Occur?

When a physician fails to diagnose breast cancer in a timely manner, a patient is robbed of the ability to fight the disease in its early stages. Failure to diagnose cancer or a delayed diagnosis of cancer can be the grounds for a medical malpractice claim if any of these factors are present:

  • The doctor fails to recommend and/or perform the appropriate cancer screening tests
  • The doctor fails to recognize symptoms indicating cancer
  • The screening tests are not properly administered
  • The testing laboratory makes errors that result in a failure to diagnose cancer

As patients, we seek the advice and professional guidance of those we expect to have greater knowledge and expertise in a particular field. But when something does go wrong and we are robbed of the opportunity to seek out lifesaving treatments, it is crucial to seek the sage advice of trusted counsel. Experiencing cancer is emotionally, physically and psychologically traumatic under any circumstances, but knowing that a cancer misdiagnosis was responsible for the progression of the disease only adds to the anguish. The lawyers at O’Connor, Parsons, Lane & Noble can, however, hold the person or people responsible for the failure to diagnose cancer accountable for their actions.

When is Breast Cancer Medical Malpractice?

Failure to diagnose cancer or a delayed diagnosis of cancer generally falls into one of three categories, all of which can be the grounds for a medical malpractice claim.

Failure to Recommend and/or Perform Cancer Screening

Medical professionals are responsible for evaluating a patient’s risk for breast cancer based on factors such as age, family history, genetic predisposition, and other relevant medical history. If a doctor fails to recommend or perform appropriate cancer screenings in a high-risk patient or neglects to follow the standard screening guidelines, this may result in delayed diagnosis. If the delay leads to a worse outcome than would have likely occurred with timely diagnosis and treatment, it could be a basis for a medical malpractice claim.

Negligent Performance of Cancer Screening/Testing

Errors in the performance of cancer screening or testing procedures can also lead to medical malpractice claims. For example, a radiologist might misinterpret a mammogram or fail to identify an abnormality. Alternatively, a biopsy might be performed incorrectly, leading to inaccurate results. If such negligence results in a missed or delayed breast cancer diagnosis, and the patient suffers resultant harm, a malpractice claim may be viable.

Laboratory Errors Causing Failure to Diagnose Cancer 

Once a biopsy or other tissue sample is taken, it’s analyzed in a lab to determine if cancer cells are present. However, errors can occur during this process. The sample might be contaminated, improperly stored, or simply misread. In some cases, the lab might mix up samples from different patients. If a lab error leads to a failure to diagnose breast cancer and this results in harm to the patient, it could provide grounds for a medical malpractice claim.

In all these situations, it’s essential to prove that the medical professional made an error that led directly to harm. The harm can come in the form of the advancement of cancer, unnecessary treatments, or emotional distress that would not have occurred with proper care. A skilled medical malpractice attorney can guide you through this complex process, working with medical experts to investigate the case, establish negligence, and quantify damages.

Now let’s take a minute to understand the different kinds of damages that you can receive in these cases. 

Damages and Compensation for Breast Cancer Misdiagnosis

New Jersey allows victims of medical malpractice to recover several kinds of damages. These include both compensatory and punitive damages. While some cases can involve both kinds of damages, each category has different objectives and covers different situations. Let’s evaluate these damages more closely.

Compensatory Damages

According to New Jersey law, compensatory damages try to make up for the losses of an injured party. Compensatory damages include recovery of financial loss in the past as well as an estimate of future loss. Other examples of compensatory damages include the following:

  • Medical expenses. This can cover past and future medical costs related to the malpractice, such as hospital bills, medication, rehabilitation, and any necessary future medical care.
  • Lost wages. If the malpractice has led to time off work or reduced earning capacity, you may be entitled to compensation for lost income, both past and future.
  • Other out-of-pocket expenses. This would include any other costs directly related to the injury, such as travel costs for medical appointments, home care, and modifications needed for living with a disability.
  • Pain and suffering. This includes physical pain, mental anguish, reduced quality of life, and other negative emotional and psychological issues.

As you can see, compensatory damages can cover emotional issues such as reduced enjoyment of life due to a disability or loss. Furthermore, pain and suffering can even cover the physical and mental distress suffered because of a delay in diagnosis or a failure to diagnose breast cancer.

Victims can rest easy knowing that compensatory damages can help them recoup losses from a variety of different situations. But what if the negligent party acted in a particularly wrongful way? What holds them accountable?

Punitive Damages

The purpose of punitive damages is not to compensate the victim. Instead, these awards are intended to punish the defendant and deter similar conduct in the future. Specifically, the plaintiff needs to prove that the defendant caused the harm they suffered and that the defendant’s act (or failure to act) was motivated by either actual malice or a complete disregard for the welfare of others. 

We Can Help

Our New Jersey failure to diagnose breast cancer lawyers can help you recover compensation. At O’Connor, Parsons, Lane & Noble, we are well versed on the particular circumstances unique to failure to diagnose cancer. The important piece for you to remember is that you—as a patient or representative of a loved one—are entitled to a very specific standard of care by your physician and related medical personnel.

We urge you to consult with us as soon as you suspect you have been subject to medical negligence. We don’t expect you to come to us knowing all the answers—that’s our job. We are continually educating ourselves and keeping up to date with the most current legal changes and news so that we may better serve your needs. Our malpractice attorneys have the experience, expertise and breadth of knowledge to pursue failure to diagnose cancer cases of merit.

At O’Connor, Parsons, Lane & Noble, we will work diligently on your behalf to provide you with excellent representation. Though damages awarded to the victim of a medical malpractice case vary by situation, rest assured that our attorneys will always strive to seek the maximum allowable. After a thorough review of your case, together, we will determine the most appropriate damages to seek. Compensatory damages include recovery of financial loss in the past as well as an estimate of future loss. Damages may also cover emotional issues such as reduced enjoyment of life due to a disability or loss. Pain and suffering covers the physical and mental distress suffered because of a delay in diagnosis or a failure to diagnose breast cancer.

Results may vary depending on your particular facts and legal circumstances.

Discuss Your Case with Our Failure to Diagnose Breast Cancer Attorneys Today

O’Connor, Parsons, Lane & Noble is one of the most-established and best-known medical malpractice law firms in New Jersey. The initial consultation is free, confidential, and you are under no obligation. Contact us online or call at (908) 928-9200 or 1-800-586-5817.