Receiving a cancer diagnosis is devastating. Perhaps the only thing more devastating is receiving the wrong diagnosis. Radiologists play a large role in the diagnosis of most types of cancer. Radiology errors can lead to a patient's losing a chance for successful treatment when cancer is missed, or suffering physical and emotional distress when incorrectly diagnosed with cancer that isn't there.
Radiologists are doctors who specialize in administering and interpreting medical tests such as CT scans, MRIs, ultrasounds, X-rays, and PET scans to diagnose illness. When a primary care physician, based on a patient's history, reported symptoms, and other factors suspects a certain diagnosis, the radiologist performs further testing to help confirm or refute these suspicions.
There are essentially three types of errors a radiologist can make in a cancer diagnosis (or misdiagnosis). The first and most common error is one of perception: the radiologist simply does not see the evidence of disease on the images of the patient's tissue. The second type of error is one of interpretation: the doctor sees the cancer on the scan or X-ray, but interprets it as something other than what it is. The third type of error is a failure to adequately protect the patient during the testing. This may occur as the result of using too much radiation or failing to adequately shield the patient. Any of these errors, if a reasonable radiologist would not have made them, rise to the level of medical malpractice.
Any of these types of mistakes can be costly, in far more than just financial terms (although they are costly in that sense, too). A failure to diagnose cancer can mean that when it is identified, it is no longer treatable, or that treatment must be much more aggressive, expensive, and debilitating. If a patient is incorrectly diagnosed with cancer based on a radiology error, they may subject themselves to treatment that is not only unnecessary but harmful and disfiguring; think chemotherapy and mastectomy in the case of a woman incorrectly diagnosed with breast cancer. In fact, misdiagnosis or missed diagnosis of breast cancer is one of the more common bases for a malpractice action based on radiology errors.
How common are radiology errors in cancer diagnosis overall? There have been relatively few studies of that, so it's difficult to determine. What is known is that because of the level and type of harm that these errors cause, malpractice cases based on radiology errors often yield significant awards. It is impossible to adequately compensate a family for the untimely loss of a loved one, or a patient for the loss of years of life.
It is not always evident that a cancer diagnosis would have been made sooner had a radiology error not occurred. However, if you have any suspicion that your cancer could have been detected earlier, you should definitely investigate further. An experienced Oregon medical malpractice attorney can help you obtain the materials your radiologist reviewed to see if the error was avoidable.
If your radiologist's error caused you harm, you have only a limited amount of time in which to file a medical malpractice case in Oregon. It's better to consult an attorney for an honest evaluation of your case than to be left wondering what might have been had you pursued redress for your injury. Once the limitations period has expired for your injury, it cannot be reopened. To learn more about radiology errors and medical malpractice in Oregon, and whether pursuing a case is right for you, contact Huegli Fraser to schedule a free consultation with one of our attorneys.
The information in this blog post is provided for informational purposes only and is not intended to be legal advice. You should not make a decision whether or not to contact a qualified medical malpractice attorney based upon the information in this blog post. No attorney-client relationship is formed nor should any such relationship be implied. If you require legal advice, please consult with a competent medical malpractice attorney licensed to practice in your jurisdiction.
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