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What Is a Failure To Diagnose Leukemia?

A failure to diagnose leukemia occurs when a doctor or health care provider fails to properly and accurately take the steps needed in order to screen for or diagnose leukemia. A delayed diagnosis occurs when a diagnosis is unnecessarily delayed while allowing the cancer to grow or spread. Misdiagnosing leukemia as a less dangerous illness or the wrong form of leukemia can also establish a failure to diagnose leukemia.

Early detection and treatment are vital to improve someone’s chances of surviving leukemia. Untreated leukemia cells will multiply, spread, and continue to weaken the blood’s ability to carry out its vital functions. While many people survive leukemia, a missed, late, or delayed diagnosis may cause preventable complications or make the difference between life and death.

What Is Leukemia?

Leukemia is a type of cancer that begins in the bone marrow and affects the blood. Leukemia develops when the marrow’s immature blood cells begin to multiply without control. The abnormal leukemic cells lose their full function and become unable to fight infection like healthy white blood cells. These cells further interfere with the production of healthy cells. Eventually, the body is left with too few cells to supply oxygen to the body, fight infection, and fulfill other vital functions. Leukemia cells may spread throughout the body and cause further complications.

Although leukemia is frequently considered as a children’s disease, it is most prevalent among adults. Each year, an estimated 156,420 people in the United States are expected to be diagnosed with leukemia, lymphoma, or myeloma. Leukemia is expected to kill more than 24,000 people this year. Overall, a person in the United States dies every ten minutes from a form of blood cancer.

Types of Leukemia

There are seven different types of leukemia. It is important to know what type of treatment a person has, because different forms require different types of treatment.

The most common types of leukemia are named according to the type of cell treated and how quickly they develop. Leukemia may be acute or chronic and may effect lymphocytic or myelogenous cells. Acute leukemia advances quickly and causes symptoms earlier. Chronic leukemia is slower moving and may not show symptoms for several years. Lymphocytic leukemia affects white blood cells. Myelogenuous leukemia affects other cells that typically become red blood cells, platelets, or granulocytes.

The most common forms of leukemia are:

  • Acute myeloid leukemia (AML)
  • Acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL)
  • Chronic myeloid leukemia (CML)
  • Chronic lymphocytic leukemia (CLL)

Other rare forms of leukemia include:

  • Hairy cell leukemia (a type of chronic lymphocytic leukemia)
  • Chronic myelomonocytic leukemia
  • Juvenile myelomonocytic leukemia

Leukemia Symptoms

Leukemia symptoms vary depending upon the form of leukemia, how far it has advanced, and the individual. Acute leukemia symptoms usually occur and worsen quickly. Individuals with chronic leukemia may not notice any symptoms for a long time. When chronic leukemia symptoms occur, they are typically mild and get worse gradually.

Leukemia symptoms may include:

  • Anemia
  • Easy bruising or bleeding
  • Small spots of discoloration under the skin
  • Susceptibility to infection due to damaged white blood cells
  • Swollen lymph notes
  • Unplanned weight loss
  • Feeling of weakness or fatigue
  • Night sweats
  • Bone pain and tenderness
  • Discomfort under lower left ribs (caused by swollen spleen)

When leukemia spreads, it may also cause symptoms in affected organs.

How to Diagnose Leukemia

A doctor may suspect that a patient has leukemia due to certain risk factors of if a patient exhibits symptoms of leukemia. The doctor should ask for your complete medical history and do a physical examination which looks for symptoms such as pale skin, enlarged lymph nodes, and tender bones. While a physical exam cannot fully diagnose leukemia, it can tell a doctor that tests should be done.

The first test for leukemia screening is a blood test. Because blood tests are widely used for other purposes, leukemia may be detected in tests for other purposes. A blood test counts the number of red blood cells, white blood cells, and platelets in the blood. It may also look at your blood under a microscope.

If abnormalities are noted in a blood test, a doctor should do a biopsy of bone marrow or lymph nodes. A biopsy can confirm and identify the type of leukemia. Other tests may be used to determine the rate of the cancer’s growth.

Once leukemia has been identified, other tests may be used to determine if leukemia has damaged other bodily organs. These tests include x-rays, CT scans, PET scans, MRIs, lumbar puncture, ultrasounds, and echocardiograms.

How to Treat Leukemia

Leukemia treatment varies depending upon the type of leukemia and how far it has advanced. Leukemia is typically treated by a hematologist-oncologist doctor. These are doctors who have specialized in blood disorders and cancer. Patients with an acute form of leukemia need treatment as soon as possible in order to maximize chances for survival.

Most leukemia patients are treated with chemotherapy. Chemotherapy uses special powerful drugs to kill cancer cells. In addition to chemotherapy, additional treatment may also be used to supplement treatment. Furthermore, some patients may need blood transfusion, blood platelets, or bone marrow replacement in order to restore proper bodily function.

Some patients with chronic forms of leukemia who have no symptoms may choose to forego treatment until symptoms begin.

Although treatment may vary, options include the following.

  • Chemotherapy
  • Watchful waiting
  • Targeted therapy to block the growth of leukemia cells
  • Radiation therapy
  • Stem cell transplant
  • Immunotherapy to stimulate the body to attack leukemia cells

How Failures to Diagnose Leukemia Occur

While some instances of leukemia do not exhibit symptoms or are undetected despite competent medical care, doctors may be at fault for failing to diagnose and properly treat leukemia that should have been found. If this happens, the doctor may be liable for committing medical malpractice.

Doctors should always listen to their patients’ complaints and be able to identify the symptoms of potential illnesses. Physical exams should be done with appropriate thoroughness. A doctor should consider a patient’s risk factors, personal history, and family history. Abnormalities should be identified, communicated, and investigated. If needed, testing, referral to a specialist, and follow-up should occur.

Unfortunately, doctors do not always notice the signs and symptoms that would be apparent through proper examination, testing, and procedures. Reasons for failure include, but are not limited to:

  • Failure to listen to a patient’s concerns
  • Failure to take a thorough personal and family history
  • Failure to perform and adequate physical examination
  • Failure to recognize symptoms
  • Failure to investigate suspicious findings
  • Failure to order blood tests or biopsy
  • Failure to order tests to determine if leukemia has spread
  • Improper samples for testing (such as taking sample from wrong area)
  • Improperly read tests
  • Failure to red-flag abnormalities when testing is done for another purpose
  • Failure to communicate test results
  • Misdiagnosis as a less serious disease with different symptoms
  • Misdiagnosis as the wrong form of leukemia
  • Failure to refer to a specialist
  • Failure to properly monitor watchful waiting patients
  • Failure to follow-up with patients in remission
  • Failure to follow proper procedures to treat leukemia

Did You Suffer From A Failure To Diagnose Or A Delayed Diagnosis Of Leukemia?

Our firm has the background and experience to determine whether a failure to diagnose or delayed diagnosis of lymphoma has occurred. 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 doctor failed to follow the “standard of care” and that the failure led to your condition getting worse. 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 leukemia 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 harms, losses, and damages.


If you believe that your doctor misdiagnosed your symptoms or did not diagnose your leukemia in a timely fashion, contact Gupta Law Group for a free consultation. We help people and families throughout Illinois and Indiana. Cases are taken on a contingency fee basis, which means that you owe us nothing unless your claim is successful and results in compensation.

Gupta Law Group is conveniently located in Chicago, Illinois. We represent clients in Chicago and the Chicagoland suburbs including; Cook County, Lake County, DuPage County, Kane County, Will County, Northwest Indiana and the surrounding towns, communities and counties. Office Hours = MONDAY-FRIDAY (8AM - 5PM) 105 W Madison St. - Suite 1500 Chicago, IL 60602 Located on the corner of Madison St. & Clark St., Just Northeast of I-290 & I-90, and just West of Lake Shore Drive, we are located just West of Millenium Park & The Art Institute of Chicago