People place a lot of trust and faith in medical doctors. After all, they go to school for nearly a decade and complete a residency to ensure they have the knowledge necessary to diagnose and treat human medical conditions. Individual doctors may specialize in certain things, but they should still have a broad foundation of general knowledge for diagnosing conditions.
Sadly, failing to diagnose serious conditions in a timely manner is a common occurrence. There are many factors that can contribute to a doctor overlooking the right diagnosis. Unconscious sexism and racism can influence how seriously a doctor takes self-reported symptoms, like pain. That means that women and people of color may be at increased risk for delayed diagnosis, which could prove deadly if the condition is a form of cancer.
Some cancers spread very aggressively
There are many different kind of tumors and cancers. Some of them, like mesothelioma, take decades to form and develop symptoms. Others, like glioblastoma, can go from too small to cause symptoms to fatal in mere weeks. The potential for rapid growth is one reason why doctors should always consider cancer and move to rule it out when assessing the cause of symptoms.
Delaying testing that could alert everyone about potential tumors, such as imaging tests or blood work, could mean the difference between a treatable Stage II cancer and a fatal Stage IV that has already metastasized to other organs. Doctors should always keep the potential for aggressive cancer in mind when deliberating about symptoms reported by a patient.
Patients deserve accurate and timely diagnosis
When a doctor fails to diagnose your cancer quickly, it can be the difference between basic treatments and aggressive chemotherapy. In some cases, an earlier diagnosis could mean radiation alone is sufficient, while a later diagnosis may require ongoing chemotherapy and surgery. Other times, a delay in diagnosis could be the difference between the potential for full remission and a terminal diagnosis.
When doctors fail to diagnose a severe condition, the patient is often the one who suffers as a result. The longer they wait for a second opinion, the more time their cancer has to grow and spread throughout their bodies. Patients pay doctors for their knowledge and ability to diagnose. When a doctor fails in that most basic aspect of their job, it could mean that the doctor involved has committed a form of professional malpractice.
Many kinds of cancers, including dangerous brain cancers, require fast and accurate diagnosing for the best possible outlook. For patients who suffered a delayed diagnosis or the families of patients who died due to a delayed cancer diagnosis, there may be legal options for holding the doctor or hospital involved accountable for that failure.