Even those of us who know little about cancer know that the earlier your cancer is diagnosed the better your chances. So if this is common knowledge then we would expect that it would be almost a rule in the medical community: rule out cancer whenever possible in order to insure the best outcome possible. Yet all too often we hear stories about patients whose cancer was either misdiagnosed as something else or undiagnosed all together. When the misdiagnosis of cancer leads to a far worse outcome for the cancer patient there is often a case of medical malpractice.
Consider the case of a recent Illinois wrongful death settlement that was approved by a Cook County judge. The widow received $1.59 million from her deceased husband’s treating urologist and his physician group after he failed to diagnose her husband’s bladder cancer in a timely manner. The plaintiff-decedent’s undiagnosed cancer spread over a two-year period and was the ultimate cause of his death.
The facts of the Illinois wrongful death case are as follows. Over the span of two years the man presented to his urologist for CT scans of his abdomen and pelvis. The scans showed two enlarged lymph nodes, which can be a sign that cancer has metastasized to other areas of the body. However, the urologist took no action to investigate the enlarged lymph nodes for cancer.
As a side note, whenever radiology scans are involved in the misdiagnosis of cancer there is a chance that there was medical negligence on the part of the radiologist reviewing those scans. This would be the case if the radiologist missed the signs of the cancer, which an Illinois medical malpractice attorney would prove by going back and reviewing those scans to show that the cancer was in fact obvious but was missed by the radiologist. However, there does not seem to be any radiology errors in the current Illinois wrongful death case as the radiologist clearly identified the enlarged lymph nodes in his report.
Instead, here we have medical malpractice on the part of the treating physician who failed to act on the medical information in front of him. However, sometimes it is hard for a jury to blame a treating physician for one error and the defense can make a case that the negligent doctor was still within the standard of care, i.e. that the doctor’s actions were reasonable and that he fulfilled his duty to the patient.
Yet in this case the same treating urologist failed to respond to the patients irregular CT scans not one, but two times. A year after the initial CT scans showed two enlarged lymph nodes another CT scan showed that the same mass had now grown. Yet once again the urologist did not take any action and failed to diagnose the cancer.
Six years later the plaintiff-decedent presented to the emergency room complaining of pain in his hip. At the time a third CT scan was performed, which now showed that his pelvic mass had grown to 11 cm and metastasized to the bone. The Illinois resident was diagnosed with bladder cancer and died a year later despite numerous episodes of chemotherapy and radiation.
Oftentimes when we are evaluating Illinois failure to diagnose cancer cases for medical malpractice we look at how long of a period elapsed between when the cancer should have been diagnosed and when it was eventually diagnosed. This is because it is important to not only show that the cancer could and should have been diagnosed earlier, but also to prove that the failure to diagnose cancer would have made a difference in the patient’s treatment and ultimate outcome.
In this case the six and seven year time span would have obviously made a difference in the patient’s outcome. In addition, the fact that the missed signs of the patient’s cancer are clearly documented and preserved in the form of radiology scans instead of nonspecific symptoms, like recurrent cough or back pain, make it easier to prove the urologist’s medical negligence. Unfortunately, this case is a perfect example of what happens when a physician misses the obvious signs of a patient’s cancer and thereby denies them the possibility of a positive outcome.
Kreisman Law Offices has been handling Illinois failure to diagnose cancer lawsuits for over 30 years, serving those areas in and around Cook County, including Schaumburg, Wilmette, Lisle, and Blue Island.
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