I have made significant damage recoveries for clients whose doctor failed to timely diagnose cancer. These cases have involved failure to diagnose bladder cancer, cervical cancer, breast cancer and skin cancer.
To be successful, the victim must prove (1) that by a certain date a doctor should have diagnosed the cancer, but did not do so; (2) that when the cancer was finally diagnosed, it was significantly worse than when it should have been diagnosed; (3) that the treatment for the cancer when it was finally diagnosed was much more severe and expensive than what it would have been if diagnosed when it should have been diagnosed; and (4) the chances for long term survival are significantly worse.
In the failure to timely diagnose breast cancer cases that I have handled, there are two areas where negligence usually occurs that causes delay in diagnosis. One is that a radiologist performs a mammogram and reports that the mammogram shows no evidence of cancer, when the mammogram clearly shows evidence of cancer, and two years later the cancer is diagnosed. The other is when the radiologist reports to a gynecologist that the mammogram is suspicious for cancer and recommends a biopsy, but the gynecologist does not follow through with getting the biopsy. A mammogram is solid evidence of the size of a tumor when it should have been diagnosed and the size when it was actually diagnosed. The most successful cases are those where the cancer stage when the cancer should have been diagnosed was in situ or stage 1, but the stage progressed to stage 3 or 4. At stage 1, the treatment is much less severe than a stage 3 or 4 breast cancer. At stage 1, the long term survival is as high as 95% and at stage 4 it is usually less than 10%.
Cervical cancer is easily treated with good long-term survival is diagnosed early when it is in situ or stage 1. Regular Pap smears show the progression. I have had cases where regular Pap smears showed a progression of precancerous cells to invasive cancer, but the gynecologist did not do proper follow-up and provide treatment.
Skin cancer cases usually result when a pathologist misreads the tissue and reports the biopsy tissue is free of cancer, when in fact the tissue showed cancer. There is usually a significant time period between the mis-diagnosed biopsy and when the cancer is diagnosed. In these cases, the cancer may not be diagnosed until it has spread and become a stage 4 cancer. The biggest fear is missing the early diagnosis of a melanoma, which is easily treated early. Once a melanoma has spread, the prognosis is usually very bad.
I see victims whose cancer should have been diagnosed earlier, but it was not diagnosed, but the interval between when it should have been diagnosed and when it was actually diagnosed was short. It is often impossible to prove that the delay made any difference in the treatment or the long term survival.