Most people are aware of the impact cancer can have on those who are diagnosed, but did you know that cancer misdiagnosis can also be devastating and traumatic for an individual? Cancer misdiagnosis occurs when non-cancerous medical conditions are diagnosed as cancer, or when a cancer is not diagnosed properly or in a timely manner. Cancer misdiagnosis can be caused by medical negligence or an insufficient understanding of cancer in the medical community. Sometimes, a misdiagnosis cannot be avoided, but in other cases, a party can be held liable and a patient has the option to file a cancer misdiagnosis lawsuit.
The American Journal of Medicine has reported that cancer misdiagnosis rates occur in approximately 15 percent of new cancer diagnoses, including incorrect diagnosis, delayed diagnosis, or failure to diagnose the cancer altogether. In addition, a study found that of the misdiagnosis cases analyzed, 28 percent of the mistakes made were life threatening or life altering. In any form, cancer misdiagnosis can have devastating terms.
This past year, a 22-year-old woman named Jennifer Rufer shared her story of cancer misdiagnosis. After experiencing irregular bleeding, Rufer took a pregnancy test which turned out positive. However, the doctor could find no fetus and deduced that Rufer has a rare form of cancer that can cause a false-positive pregnancy test due to high levels of a hormone, HCG. Though cancer specialists at the University of Washington Medical Center in Seattle found no tumor that was supposed to be characteristic of that type of cancer, Rufer was diagnosed with the cancer and began chemotherapy immediately.
After months of debilitating chemotherapy, Rufer’s HCG levels did not drop to a normal amount. She was told she would have to have a hysterectomy. “I did not want to…not be able to have children,” Rufer said, “But I just felt if I have the surgery, then I won’t have to be sick anymore and I won’t die.” After going through with the procedure, the doctors performed more tests which had an alarming conclusion. “They ended up finding out that I have never had cancer. The test was faulty from the beginning…I had been treated for no reason at all.”
Rufer took the University of Washington Hospital to trial, and was awarded more than $16 million. She plans to use the money to find a surrogate mother so she can have children. In Rufer’s case, the doctors were accused of not heeding the warning issued by the manufacturers of the cancer hormone test. The company warned physicians that false positives may occur, which Rufer’s doctors did not consider-an act of medical negligence. Cancer misdiagnosis is often a result of medical negligence, which occurs when a medical professional fails to provide accurate care and attention to the patient. Unfortunately, cancer misdiagnosis is becoming increasingly more common. Misdiagnosis of cancer can result in loss of time and money by the patient, deterioration of the patient’s health, put the patient’s life at risk, and result in life altering health decisions, like in Rufer’s case. Misdiagnosis is a common reason for litigation; a patient has the option to file a cancer misdiagnosis lawsuit if they were misdiagnosed by negligent doctors who caused additional, avoidable harm to the patient.