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Liability for Failure to Diagnose Lung Cancer

August 01, 2021
Liability for Failure to Diagnose Lung Cancer

Lung cancer is one of the most aggressive and deadly forms of cancer. If not caught and treated at an early stage, lung cancer can become difficult to treat and often ends up proving fatal. Unfortunately, many people who develop lung cancer do not realize they are sick until the cancer has progressed to a more advanced stage. Many do not realize that they have risk factors for lung cancer and as a result do not undergo the regular screenings that can detect lung cancer at an early, treatable stage. In some cases, this lack of screening leading to delayed diagnoses may be the fault of a patient’s doctors and other healthcare providers who fail to ensure that the patient has the proper screening and diagnostic regimen to catch lung cancer. 

Lung Cancer Screening

The three primary risk factors for lung cancer include:

  • 55 years old or older with a history of smoking
  • A smoking history of 30 pack-years or more (a pack-year is defined as smoking an average of one pack of cigarettes per day, per year)
  • Currently smoking or have quit within the past 15 years

Other risk factors for lung cancer may include environmental risk factors, including exposure to aerosolized carcinogens at home or at work, as well as genetic risk factors.

If a patient has known risk factors for lung cancer or begins to complain of symptoms indicative of lung cancer, their physician should begin the patient on a regular screening regimen that includes:

  • Chest x-rays
  • Low-dose CT scans
  • Pulmonary function tests
  • Lab studies

Low-dose CT scans have especially proven effective in diagnosing lung cancers at an early stage. One study found that this screening can catch as much as 85 percent of all Stage I lung cancers, where the five-year survival rate is as high as 56 percent. 

Why Are Lung Cancers Not Diagnosed?

Doctors may fail to diagnose a patient’s lung cancer at an early stage for several reasons, including:

  • Failing to take a complete patient history, which might reveal a history of smoking, environmental factors, or family or genetic factors that renders the patient at a high risk for developing lung cancer. 
  • Ignoring or failing to consider a patient’s subjective complaints of symptoms that may indicate lung cancer, or misdiagnosing those symptoms as another condition (such as a respiratory infection).
  • Not putting a high-risk patient on a screening regimen.
  • Misinterpreting screening and laboratory test results.
  • Failing to refer a patient to an oncologist or specialist in lung cancers for further testing, a second opinion, or diagnostic confirmation.

Who May Be Liable for a Failure-to-Diagnose?

In the event that lung cancer is not diagnosed or not diagnosed in a timely manner, parties that may be held liable for the harm that a patient suffers as a result include:

  • The patient’s primary physician
  • Specialists involved in the patient’s care
  • Hospitals and other medical facilities where the patient sought care
  • Laboratory and radiology technicians who perform tests and scans on a patient

In a failure-to-diagnose case, a patient may be entitled to recover compensation for:

  • More intensive medical treatment needed when the lung cancer is at a more advanced stage
  • Lost wages and earning potential due to the more intensive treatment
  • Physical pain and emotional distress
  • Loss of quality of life, especially due a reduced survival chance of life expectancy

Contact A Medical Malpractice Attorney for a Consultation About Your Failure-to-Diagnose Case in Pennsylvania

Were you or a loved one injured due to medical malpractice in Pennsylvania? Then you need to talk to an experienced medical malpractice lawyer as soon as possible for guidance on how to proceed. The Pittsburgh failure-to-diagnose attorneys at Berger & Lagnese, LLC are prepared to assist you with your legal claim. We represent victims of negligent surgeons, doctors, nurses, and pharmacists throughout Pennsylvania, including Butler, Cranberry Township, Erie, and Greensburg. Call us today at (412) 471-4300 or fill out our online contact form to schedule a consultation. Our main office is located at 310 Grant St., #720, Pittsburgh, PA 15219.

The articles on this blog are for informative purposes only and are no substitute for legal advice or an attorney-client relationship. If you are seeking legal advice, please contact our law firm directly.

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