What is A Failure to Diagnose?
All medical professionals, including doctors and radiologists, have a legal and professional responsibility to serve their patients competently and live up to the “standard of care.” A medical professional fails to live up to this standard of care when the healthcare professional does something a reasonable member of his or her profession would not have done. Medical malpractice occurs when a medical professional fails to live up to this standard resulting in serious harm to the patient.
A medical professional can commit malpractice by failing to diagnose, misdiagnosing, or providing a delayed diagnosis of a medical condition such as kidney cancer. A failure to diagnose occurs when a healthcare provider who should have detected the condition through competent healthcare fails to do so. This delayed diagnosis allows the disease to progress untreated.
What Is Kidney Cancer?
Kidney cancer, also called renal cancer, occurs when cells in the kidneys mutate and begin to divide and spread uncontrollably. Untreated cancer will eventually spread throughout the body and become fatal. Although there are several types of kidney cancer, renal cell cancer, also called renal adenocarcinoma or hypernephroma, is the most common. The American Cancer Society estimates that 63,920 new cases of kidney cancer and 13,860 deaths will occur this year.
The kidneys are a pair of organs located on each side of the spine in the lower abdomen. The kidneys remove wastes and excess water from the blood stream. They are part of the urinary tract and create urine through filtering wastes from the body. They also create a substance used to regulate blood pressure.
Kidney cancer’s progression and severity is categorized by stages. Stage I kidney cancer is early, has not spread beyond the kidney, and is no larger than a tennis ball. Stage II is larger than a tennis ball, but has not spread beyond the kidney. Stage III occurs when the cancer has begun to spread to one nearby lymph node or reaches nearby blood vessels. Stage IV occurs when the tumor extends beyond the fibrous tissue that surrounds the kidney, it has spread to more than one lymph node, or it has spread elsewhere in the body.
Who Is at Risk for Kidney Cancer?
Kidney cancer can strike anyone at any age. While we do not know what causes cancer, several factors have been identified which suggest a person is more likely to develop kidney cancer.
Some factors which suggest a higher risk of developing kidney cancer include:
- High blood pressure
- Workplace exposure to chemicals such as asbestos or cadmium
- Von Hippel-Lindau Syndrome
- Old age
- Long-term dialysis
What are the Symptoms of Kidney Cancer?
Most people do not exhibit any symptoms until kidney cancer until it has had a chance to develop further. Symptoms of kidney cancer may include:
- Blood in the urine which may make blood appear pink, red, or brownish
- Constant pain in the side or flank
- Unintended weight loss
Diagnosing Kidney Cancer
Kidney cancer may either be found in response to signs and symptoms of kidney problems or while testing for other medical conditions. Because kidney cancer does not have early symptoms and the symptoms resemble other ailments, kidney cancer is frequently found while doing tests for other conditions. Because many diseases such as kidney cancer may render a life-saving diagnosis unexpectedly, healthcare providers should always be thorough and vigilant in reviewing test results.
If kidney cancer or a kidney-related illness is suspected, the doctor should do a physical examination, ask appropriate questions, and run necessary tests to determine what is wrong. The physical exam should look for symptoms such as an abdominal lump. Your doctor should ask questions regarding your family history, your personal medical history, and when symptoms began. If there is any indication that something may be wrong, the doctor should order tests.
Tests which may be used to diagnose kidney cancer include:
- Blood tests. The contents of the blood can indicate whether the kidneys are functioning properly or what antibodies are present in the body.
- Urine tests. In addition to the chemical makeup of the urine, blood in the urine may suggest that further testing is necessary.
- Imaging test. Tests such as x-rays, ultrasounds, CT scans, PET scans, or MRI studies can help the doctor to see your kidney and any abnormalities.
- Biopsies take a small sample of suspicious cells and look at them in the lab to determine if cancer is present. Biopsies can usually provide a definitive diagnosis.
Treating Kidney Cancer
Cancer treatment will vary depending upon the health of the individual, size of the tumor, and the stage of the disease. Treatment usually includes a combination of surgery, chemotherapy, radiation, biological immunotherapy, and embolization.
While surgery is commonly done for kidney cancer, the extent of surgery may vary depending upon the progression of the disease. Partial nephrectomy only removes part of the kidney where the tumor is located. A simple nephrectomy surgery removes the entire kidney. In serious cases, a radical nephrectomy will remove the kidney along with the adjoining adrenal gland and lymph nodes.
Non-surgical techniques may either be used with or without surgery. Arterial embolization attempts to shrink the tumor. Radiation therapy uses a machine to direct energy at the tumor. Chemotherapy uses powerful drugs to attempt to kill the tumor. Cryoblation uses a special needle to cool or freeze cancer cells. Biological therapy attempts to stimulate the body’s immune system to attach the cancerous cells.
Prognosis for Recovery
While kidney cancer is a dangerous and potentially fatal disease, it can usually be successfully treated if it is diagnosed and treated in time. Over 74% of people with kidney cancer survive for at least five years. If a doctor fails to make a diagnosis that should have been caught, it may cost the patient’s life.
According to the National Cancer Data Base, people diagnosed with Stage I kidney cancer survive 81% of the time and people diagnosed with stage II kidney cancer survive 74% of the time. Stage III cancer has a 53% survival rate. However, once kidney cancer reaches stage IV without a diagnosis, the chances for survival plummet all the way to 8%.
How Failures to Diagnose Kidney Cancer Malpractice Occur
A timely diagnosis is a vital and necessary step to begin treatment on time. While kidney cancer’s lack of early symptoms may allow it to develop despite competent medical care, there are times when a doctor may unreasonably fail to see the warning signs. This could be a failure to recognize symptoms or to notice abnormalities in testing for other purposes.
When this happens, treatment is delayed and the patient may die or require far more costly and intrusive treatment. Although money will never replace what has been lost, it can bring a sense of justice and help a hurting family pay for the overwhelming expenses of medical treatment.
Some ways that failures to diagnose occur include, but are not limited to, the following:
- Failure to conduct a thorough physical examination
- Failure to request the patient’s medical or family history
- Failure to listen to the patient
- Failure to recognize symptoms
- Failure to order tests
- Failure to interpret tests properly
- Failure to recognize abnormalities in tests for other procedures
- Lack of medical knowledge
- Lost or misplaced paperwork
- Failure to refer to a specialist
- Failure to communicate test results to doctor or patient
- Failure to follow-up with patients
- Misdiagnosis as a different condition
Are You the Victim of a Failure to Diagnose Kidney Cancer?
Our firm has the background and experience to determine whether failure to diagnose kidney cancer has occurred and what parties should be held responsible. It is generally challenging to prove that any type of medical malpractice has occurred. You not only need to show that something went wrong, but also that the healthcare professionals failed to follow the “standard of care” and that the failure led to your harm. This is difficult and requires medical experts to prove.
In order to prove that medical malpractice has occurred, we develop a plan that gives you the best chance to discover the truth and get you the compensation you deserve. Our plans frequently include getting the medical records quickly and having those records reviewed by medical experts.
If you believe that you have been the victim of a failure to diagnose kidney cancer and our investigation supports that the doctor fell short of his or her responsibility, we can help you get the compensation you need and deserve to help offset your bills, lost wages, future lost wages, pain, and suffering.
CONTACT OUR KIDNEY CANCER ATTORNEYS FOR A FREE CONSULTATION
If you believe that you have suffered due to a failure to diagnose kidney cancer, contact us today for a free consultation with an experienced lawyer. We help people and families throughout Illinois and Indiana contact Gupta Law Group for help. Cases are taken on a contingency fee basis. That means that you owe us nothing unless your claim is successful and results in compensation.