By the time a woman was diagnosed with breast cancer, she was Stage IIIB. Had she been correctly diagnosed and treated a year earlier, she may not have developed this advanced stage of cancer. Can this be a basis for a medical malpractice case?
Misdiagnosis of Stage I Breast Cancer
This young woman was presented to a gynecologist with a lump in her breast. The lump was quite palpable, and the gynecologist followed the correct procedure of sending the patient to have a sonogram and mammogram done, and to consult with a breast surgeon. However, due to miscommunication, the patient fell through a number of cracks that led her to believe that there was absolutely nothing wrong with her.
Later, after speaking with medical experts, it was determined that had this woman been correctly diagnosed at the time she presented to the gynecologist a year earlier, her stage would have only been Stage I. The treatment she would have received for Stage I would have been totally different from the treatment she ultimately had, which was not only chemotherapy and radiation therapy, but she also had to undergo a double mastectomy.
Delay in Treatment
Therefore, if her condition had been diagnosed a year earlier, it would have been only Stage I, and according to the expert, she only would have needed a surgical removal of that lump. In this procedure, the surgeon not only takes out the lump, but also the margins or a clear margin all around the lump. This way all cancerous tissue is removed, and there is a clear border showing no signs of cancerous tissue.
Now, because she was diagnosed with Stage IIIB, and even though she has had treatment, the chances of this type of cancer recurring are significantly higher than if her condition had been diagnosed correctly a year earlier. Secondly, she had to undergo a more extensive treatment process. Instead of just the removal of the lump, she had to have both her breasts removed and undergo radiation treatment as well which has nasty side effects.
This means she had to undergo much more pain, discomfort, disfigurement, and extensive treatment compared to what she would have to undergo if her condition was diagnosed correctly a year earlier, which was only Stage I breast cancer.
Liability and Damages
In this case, the lawyer will have to establish liability based on the circumstances that led the patient to misunderstand that all was well with her. Even though the doctor or lab might have diagnosed the cancer correctly, there was miscommunication, which led her to believe that she did not have breast cancer.
After liability is established, the lawyer will have to show to the court the amount of suffering she had to undergo because of the difference in treatment for Stage I and Stage IIIB breast cancer. Lastly, the future of the patient was also uncertain because Stage IIIB cancer has a more acute chance of recurring, even after it has been surgically removed. Based on this reasoning, the injuries and suffering of this patient was enduring and significant and would have to be compensated accordingly.