What Is a Failure to Diagnose Lymphoma?
A failure to diagnose lymphoma occurs when a doctor or health care provider fails to properly and accurately do the steps needed in order to screen for or diagnose lymphoma. It may also occur when a healthcare professional fails to detect abnormalities in other tests which would indicate myeloma. A delayed diagnosis occurs when a diagnosis is unnecessarily delayed while allowing the cancer to grow or spread. Misdiagnosing lymphoma as a less dangerous illness or the wrong form of lymphoma can also establish a failure to diagnose lymphoma.
Early detection and treatment are vital to improve someone’s chances of survival. Untreated lymphoma cells will multiply, spread, and continue to weaken the blood’s ability to carry out its vital functions. While most people survive lymphoma, a missed, late, or delayed diagnosis may cause preventable complications or make the difference between life and death.
What is Lymphoma?
Lymphoma is the general name for a group of 35 blood cancers that affect white blood cells called “lymphocytes.” These cancers are grouped into two smaller categories of non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma (NLA) and Hodgkin’s Lymphoma (also known as Hodgkin’s disease). Lymphoma occurs when lymphocytes mutate and multiply. This not only causes unhealthy cells to multiply, but also causes healthy red and white cells to be outnumbered and crowded out. These cancerous cells develop into malignant tumors in the lymph glands. Left untreated, lymphoma cells will spread throughout the body.
Lymphoma is the most common blood cancer and the seventh most common cancer in the United States. It is the third most common cancer among children. Nearly 80,000 people in America are expected to develop lymphoma in 2014. Over 20,000 people are expected to die this year.
Non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma is far more common and as a higher fatality rate. Most Lymphoma cases are non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma. In 2014, 70,800 people are expected to develop non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma and 9,190 people are expected to develop Hodgkin’s lymphoma. About 40% of people developing non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma will develop a low-grade lymphoma.
Types and Stages of Lymphoma
There are two main categories of lymphoma. These include Hodgkin’s and Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma. Although they are similar in many ways and share many symptoms, they are distinguishable by microscopic examination and may require different treatment strategies.
Like most cancers, lymphoma is “staged” depending upon how far the cancer has advanced. Stage I and Stage II are early and can usually be treated effectively. Stage III is advanced while stage IV is widespread throughout the body.
Lymphoma’s are also “graded” depending upon the type of lymphoma and how they affect the lymph nodes and chromosomes. Lymphomas may categorized one of the following grades:
- Low (Indolent). These grow slowly, but may eventually become more aggressive. They may not require immediate treatment
- Intermediate. These cancers grow rapidly, but can usually be treated successfully if treatment begins early.
- High – Grade. These cells grow very quickly regardless of stage. They require aggressive treatment. They are harder to treat effectively.
Due to the characteristics of lymphoma, one of the most common early signs is a painless enlarged lymph node. While other conditions may cause enlargement, an enlarged lymph node should always be investigated further in order to confirm or rule out lymphoma.
Symptoms of both forms of non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma may include
- Itchy skin
- Unintended weight loss
- Night sweats
- Appetite Loss
- Nausea or vomiting
- Chest pain
- Swollen, painful abdomen
Symptoms of Hodgkin’s lymphoma include, but are not limited to:
- Itchy skin
- Weight loss
- Persistent cough
- Pain in the lymph nodes after drinking alcohol
- Enlarged spleen
How to Diagnose Lymphoma
A doctor may suspect that a patient has lymphoma due to certain risk factors, if a patient exhibits symptoms, or if indicated by other medical testing. The doctor should ask for your complete medical history, ask about the patient’s symptoms and concerns, and do a physical examination which looks for symptoms of lymphoma. While a physical exam cannot fully diagnose lymphoma, it can tell a doctor that tests should be done.
The first test for lymphoma is a blood test. Because blood tests are widely used for other purposes, lymphoma may be found even though no one suspected it. A blood test counts the number of red blood cells, white blood cells, and platelets in the blood. Pathologists may also look at your blood under a microscope to find abnormalities.
If abnormalities are noted in a blood test, a doctor should do a biopsy of bone marrow or lymph nodes. A pathologist will examine the bone marrow under a microscope. If the sample has certain types of abnormal lymphocytes, the patient has lymphoma.
Once lymphoma has been identified, other tests may be used to determine if lymphoma has spread or damaged other bodily organs. These tests include x-rays, CT scans, PET scans, MRIs, lumbar puncture, ultrasounds, and echocardiograms.
How to Treat Lymphoma
Lymphoma treatment strategies and approaches vary depending upon the form of lymphoma, grade, and stage of the cancer. Although approaches and the chemotherapy drugs selected may vary, the options for treatment include:
- This uses special powerful drugs against the cancer. It may be given through a pill, IV, or injection.
- This uses high-energy rays to kill cancerous cells.
- Watchful waiting. This is delaying treatment of slow-growing cancers.
- This is stimulating the body to attack cancerous cells.
- Stem cell transplant. This is used to replace cancerous cells or cells killed by other treatments.
Like most cancers, an early diagnosis and treatment are vital to surviving the disease. Early treatment greatly enhanced the chance for survival. Once the disease enters remission, the patient should continue to seek regular medical care and check regularly to see if the cancer has returned.
How Failures to Diagnose Lymphoma Occur
While some instances of lymphoma do not exhibit symptoms early or are undetected despite competent medical care, doctors may be at fault for failing to diagnose and properly treat lymphoma that they had an opportunity to find. When this happens, a patient’s chance for survival plummets. For example, a stage I Hodgkin’s Lymphoma has a 90% five-year survival, but a stage IV Hodgkin’s Lymphoma only has a 65% five-year survival rate rate. A late or missed diagnosis can be the difference between life and death.
There are several ways through which a doctor may fail to properly diagnose lymphoma or other blood cancers.
- 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 lymphoma has spread
- Improper samples for testing (such as taking sample from wrong area)
- Improperly read tests
- 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
Did You Suffer From A Failure To Diagnose Or A Delayed Diagnosis Of Lymphoma?
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 lymphoma 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.
CONTACT OUR FAILURE TO DIAGNOSE LYMPHOMA ATTORNEYS FOR A FREE CASE EVALUATION
If you believe that your doctor misdiagnosed your symptoms or did not diagnose your lymphoma 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.