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Lung Cancer Misdiagnosis Lawyer

Lung cancer misdiagnosis can lead to the progression of the disease, resulting in a shortened life span and reduced quality of life. Misdiagnosis of lung cancer often occurs as a result of medical negligence. A lung cancer misdiagnosis lawyer at Levin & Perconti can determine whether your health care provider was negligent and help you pursue significant compensation.

Medical malpractice occurs when a doctor’s negligence harms a patient. If a lung cancer misdiagnosis has harmed you or your loved one, a medical malpractice attorney at Levin & Perconti may be able to help you recover substantial compensation. 

Lung cancer is the second most common cancer in the United States after skin cancer, with 238,340 new cases and 127,070 deaths annually, according to the American Cancer Society. It is the leading cause of cancer death in the United States. However, despite its prevalence, it is often misdiagnosed. 

If detected early, lung cancer has a five-year survival rate of 61 percent. After it has spread to distant sites in the body, the survival rate falls to seven percent. Unfortunately, the majority of lung cancer cases are diagnosed at an advanced stage, according to the LUNGevity Foundation. An earlier diagnosis is well within reach with due diligence by doctors.

How Often Does Lung Cancer Misdiagnosis Occur?

According to Diagnosis, approximately 37.8 percent of all medical misdiagnoses are cancers, with lung cancer being the most commonly misdiagnosed cancer.

Is Lung Cancer Misdiagnosis a Form of Medical Malpractice?

Misdiagnosis of lung cancer may stem from medical malpractice, but a diagnosis alone is insufficient to constitute medical malpractice. A lung cancer misdiagnosis is only considered medical malpractice if you can prove that all of the following elements of negligence occurred: 

  • You had established a doctor-patient relationship. 
  • The doctor failed to exercise a reasonable standard of care when investigating your symptoms. 
  • The misdiagnosis caused you to suffer injuries you would not otherwise have suffered. 
  • The misdiagnosis is the proximate cause of your injuries. 

What is a Doctor-Patient Relationship? 

According to the Illinois State Medical Society, a physician-patient relationship is established when a physician agrees to provide a patient with medical care, often as soon as the first appointment is made. This relationship remains intact until a physician officially terminates it in writing. 

This is important because if a doctor-patient relationship is established, it means the doctor owes a duty of care in the diagnosis and treatment of medical conditions. 

What Does a Reasonable Standard of Care Mean? 

A reasonable standard of care means the doctor exercises the same competence and diligence expected of any prudent doctor with similar qualifications. A reasonable doctor is expected to follow established medical guidelines and to remain well-versed in the latest medical advances in their practice areas. 

When diagnosing lung cancer, this includes the following: 

  • Taking symptoms seriously 
  • Ordering a chest X-ray 
  • Ordering follow-up tests, such as a CT scan, if a chest X-ray fails to explain symptoms 
  • Continuing to investigate if symptoms do not resolve 
  • Consulting with or referring the patient to an oncologist or thoracic specialist 

What Constitutes an Injury? 

An injury is bodily harm, psychological trauma, or financial harm that would not have occurred were it not for medical negligence. Examples of injuries in a lung cancer misdiagnosis include the following: 

  • Increased pain 
  • A worsened outcome 
  • Premature death 

What Does Proximate Cause Mean? 

Proximate cause means the medical negligence is the true cause of your injuries and not something else. 

Can I Sue a Doctor for Misdiagnosing Lung Cancer?

You may be able to sue a doctor for misdiagnosing lung cancer if you can prove that the four elements of negligence are present. You can also sue the facility where your doctor is employed and any other health care provider who participated in the diagnosis whose incompetence or carelessness contributed to the misdiagnosis.  

Health care providers that may be sued for lung cancer misdiagnosis include the following: 

  • Primary care doctors 
  • Oncologists 
  • Thoracic surgeons 
  • Pathologists 
  • Nurse practitioners 
  • Physician assistants 
  • Radiologists 

Injuries Associated with Misdiagnosed Lung Cancer

A lung cancer misdiagnosis can cause severe harm, whether your misdiagnosis is a false positive or a false negative. Injuries and losses may include the following: 

  • Delayed treatment 
  • Unnecessary treatments 
  • The need for more aggressive treatment 
  • Severe emotional distress 
  • Worsening symptoms without relief
  • Untreated pain and shortness of breath 
  • Shortened life expectancy 
  • Reduced quality of life 
  • Premature death 

Lung cancer may spread throughout the lungs and to any distant location in the body, but it most commonly spreads to the following areas, according to Moffitt Cancer Center in Florida: 

  • The bones 
  • The liver 
  • The brain 
  • The adrenal glands 

As the cancer grows and spreads, it can cause unbearable pain and discomfort, often requiring stronger drugs unavailable to people without a cancer diagnosis.  

If you survive advanced lung cancer after a misdiagnosis, you may suffer severe long-term effects from aggressive chemotherapy, which could have been prevented with an earlier diagnosis. 

How Much Compensation Can I Recover for Lung Cancer Misdiagnosis?

The compensation you can expect to recover may vary depending on the facts specific to your case. Our attorneys have recovered significantly higher settlements and verdicts for our lung cancer clients, including the following: 

  • $8.1 million verdict for a family whose mother died of lung cancer due to a failure to diagnose. 
  • $14 million record verdict against a doctor and hospital for failure to follow up on abnormal chest X-ray results, causing a substantial delay in the diagnosis of lung cancer 

In Illinois, you can recover two types of damages in medical malpractice cases: economic and non-economic damages.  

Economic damages are compensation for your monetary losses that can be documented, such as the following: 

  • Medical expenses that have occurred 
  • Projected future medical expenses 
  • Costs of rehabilitation, therapy, and in-home care 
  • Assistive devices 
  • The value of domestic services you can no longer provide 
  • Lost wages 
  • Your projected lifetime wages that have been lost due to the misdiagnosis 
  • Lost business opportunities 

Non-economic damages are compensation for your quality-of-life losses, such as the following: 

  • Pain and suffering 
  • Loss of bodily functions 
  • Emotional distress  
  • Inconvenience 
  • Humiliation 
  • Loss of society 
  • Loss of consortium 
  • Loss of enjoyment of life 

The amount of compensation you receive may vary from the average and our previous case results. Such factors as the following determine compensation: 

  • Your medical expenses 
  • The severity of your pain and suffering 
  • Your earnings before the misdiagnosis 
  • The financial impact of your injuries 
  • The length of your recovery 
  • Whether your cancer misdiagnosis has resulted in permanent pain and disability 

Compensation for Wrongful Death 

If your loved one has died of lung cancer after being misdiagnosed, you may be able to recover compensation for the following in a wrongful death lawsuit: 

  • Your loved one’s pain and suffering 
  • Your grief and sorrow stemming from the death 
  • Medical expenses of your loved one 
  • Funeral and burial expenses 
  • The lost lifetime income of your loved one 
  • Loss of comfort, guidance, and support 

The Stigma Surrounding a Lung Cancer Diagnosis

Patients diagnosed with lung cancer often face stigma from friends, family members, and even health care providers because of its association with smoking. As a result, lung cancer research has received less funding than other cancers. This contributes to delayed diagnosis because research is often aimed at early detection. 

Stigma increases the burden cancer patients experience, and it could create prejudice in the legal system. If you were ever a smoker, you are as deserving of compensation for a lung cancer misdiagnosis as a non-smoker.  

When you hire a compassionate cancer misdiagnosis lawyer at Levin & Perconti, you can expect zealous representation and personalized, caring support, regardless of whether you have a smoking history. In fact, a smoking history can be helpful in a lung cancer misdiagnosis lawsuit because it can show that the doctor should have reasonably suspected and tested for lung cancer.

How Is Lung Cancer Diagnosed?

Lung cancer is diagnosed through a series of tests that typically begin with a chest X-Ray. A more detailed test should be ordered if a test shows abnormal results. If a chest X-Ray result is negative, but your symptoms are severe, the doctor should order a more detailed test, such as a CT scan, to rule out lung cancer.  

In addition, if you have risk factors for lung cancer, your doctor can perform screening tests before symptoms appear. 

The following tests are used in the diagnosis of lung cancer: 

  • Chest X-Ray 
  • Computed tomography (CT) scan 
  • Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) 
  • Positron emission tomography (PET) scan 
  • Bone scan, if it is suspected that the cancer has spread to the bones 
  • Sputum cytology – Observing mucous you cough up under a microscope 
  • Thoracentesis – Collection of a sample of the fluid around the lungs using a hollow needle 
  • Needle biopsy – Collection of suspicious tissue, such as a mass, for viewing under a microscope 
  • Bronchoscopy – a procedure in which a thin, flexible tube with a light and lens or small video camera attached is placed in the mouth and directed down the throat, into the trachea and the airways to view the lungs 

Most of these tests are non-invasive and could easily be performed upon the initial presentation of symptoms. Unfortunately, many of these tests are underutilized. 

Lung Cancer Symptoms

Lung cancer symptoms typically emerge after the disease has reached an advanced stage, according to the Mayo Clinic. When symptoms do emerge, they are often non-specific and could be mistaken for other conditions without the appropriate testing. 

Symptoms of lung cancer include the following: 

  • A new cough that never resolves 
  • Coughing up blood 
  • Shortness of breath 
  • Hoarseness 
  • Chest pain 
  • Weight loss 
  • Bone pain 
  • Headaches 

Lung Cancer Risk Factors

According to the CDC, cigarette smoking is the most important risk factor for lung cancer. It is linked to 80 to 90 percent of lung cancer deaths. Smoking cigarettes increases the risk of lung cancer by 15 to 30 times, with the risk increasing the longer a person smokes.  

Quitting smoking reduces the risk, but the risk still remains higher than if a person never smoked. Exposure to secondhand smoke increases the risk of lung cancer for people who have never smoked. 

Additional risk factors for lung cancer include the following: 

  • Exposure to radon 
  • Exposure to occupational toxins, including asbestos, arsenic, diesel exhaust, silica, and chromium 
  • Personal or family history of lung cancer 
  • Radiation therapy to the chest 
  • Certain foods and dietary supplements 
  • Radon and arsenic in drinking water, often from private wells 

If any of these risk factors apply to you, it is important to inform your doctor and consider annual screening. 

Lung Cancer Screening

The U.S. Preventive Services Task Force recommends that patients with a high risk of developing lung cancer undergo annual screening for lung cancer using low-dose computed tomography. This is a type of imaging test that is more detailed than a simple chest X-Ray.  

According to the task force, adults should screen if they are between 50 and 80 years of age and have smoked at least a pack of cigarettes per day for 20 years or two packs daily for 10 years. These recommendations apply to current smokers and those who have quit within the past fifteen years. 

The task force recommends stopping annual screening when 15 or more years have elapsed since the patient ceased smoking.

Types of Lung Cancer

Lung cancer may occur as the following types, according to the American Lung Association: 

  • Small-cell carcinoma 
  • Non-small cell carcinoma 
  • Pancoast tumors 
  • Carcinoid tumors 

Small-cell and non-small-cell carcinomas are the most common and are associated with additional sub-types. 

Small-Cell Carcinoma 

Small-cell carcinoma is almost always associated with cigarette smoking. There are two sub-types: 

  • Mixed small cell/large cell cancer   
  • Combined small cell lung cancer  

These types are classified according to the characteristics and appearance of the cancer cells when viewed under a microscope.  

Non-Small-Cell Carcinoma 

Non-small-cell carcinoma is more common, comprising 80 percent of lung cancer cases. It grows and spreads more slowly than small-cell lung cancer. The sub-types of non-small-cell carcinoma are classified based on location in the lungs and cell characteristics. The most common sub-types are as follows: 

  • Adenocarcinoma – Found in an outer area of the lung and develops on the tissues that line the cavities and surfaces of the body and form glands 
  • Squamous cell carcinoma – Found in the center of the lung next to one of the air tubes 
  • Large cell carcinoma – May occur anywhere in the lung and grows and spreads faster than the other two sub-types 

Pancoast Tumors 

Pancoast tumors grow in the upper part of the lungs and are usually non-small cell lung cancer. They may be tumors from other diseases, such as lymphoma and tuberculosis.  

Carcinoid Tumors 

Carcinoid tumors are rare and tend to be less aggressive than other types of lung cancer. They are made of a special type of cell known as neuroendocrine cells. They are often referred to as atypical carcinoids. Surgery is the most common treatment. 

Causes of Lung Cancer Misdiagnosis

Lung cancer is often asymptomatic initially and may be diagnosed incidentally during unrelated tests and procedures or annual screening.  

Misdiagnosis During Screening 

A misdiagnosis may occur during the screening process when any of the following errors occur: 

  • A pathologist fails to read test results accurately 
  • A doctor fails to review test results 
  • The lab tests are mislabeled or mixed up 
  • A practitioner fails to consult a specialist for assistance in interpreting the results 
  • A doctor fails to obtain a full family, medical, and smoking history 

According to the IDKD Springer Series, a false negative on a chest X-ray is the most common cause of lung cancer misdiagnosis. According to the report, cancer may be missed from 12 to 90 percent of the time, depending on the study. However, chest X-Ray is still the preferred diagnostic method by most doctors.   

Misdiagnosis After You Have Symptoms 

Even if you have symptoms, your cancer may be misdiagnosed. In many cases, it is diagnosed as a non-malignant condition because the symptoms of lung cancer are similar to other conditions, such as the following, according to the City of Hope: 

  • Pneumonia 
  • Asthma 
  • Tuberculosis 
  • Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) 
  • Pulmonary embolism 

A doctor may assume you have one of these conditions without testing for lung cancer. If a doctor makes a diagnosis, the doctor may refuse to consider other possibilities even if symptoms fail to resolve with treatment. This can result in the following errors: 

  • Dismissal of symptoms 
  • Failure to order tests 
  • Failure to consult specialists 
  • Failure to provide referrals to specialists 
  • Failure to read pathology tests 

If test results are inconsistent with your symptoms or you are at high risk for lung cancer, a doctor should continue to investigate by ordering follow-up tests, consulting with specialists, or providing a referral until the source of the symptoms can be identified.  

According to the Cancer Treatment Centers of America, if you have been diagnosed with pneumonia or another lung condition that doesn’t improve within two weeks after starting treatment, a doctor should suspect something else is wrong and consider cancer. 

What to Do if You Suspect a Misdiagnosis

If you suspect your doctor has missed a lung cancer diagnosis, it is urgent to seek an accurate diagnosis as soon as possible. You can accomplish this by taking the following steps: 

  • Request a referral to a thoracic oncologist, a cancer doctor that specializes in cancers of the chest 
  • Seek a second opinion 
  • Express your concerns to your health care provider and insist on receiving additional testing 

If your health care provider refuses to listen, consider finding a new provider who is more responsive. Contact a medical malpractice attorney if the misdiagnosis has allowed your cancer to progress to a more advanced stage or otherwise caused harm.   

When Should I Contact a Lawyer?

Contacting an attorney as soon as possible is important to ensure they have sufficient time to investigate and file your case before time runs out. Like other states, Illinois limits the amount of time medical malpractice victims have to file a lawsuit.  

The Illinois statute of limitations for medical malpractice is two years from the date you discovered or should have discovered your misdiagnosis and the resulting injury. However, a claim cannot be filed more than four years from the date the doctor erred. If you do not file before this deadline, you may lose your right to pursue the compensation you deserve. The statute of limitations is complicated so it is important to contact an attorney as soon as possible so they can identify the time limitations that might apply to your specific medical malpractice case in Illinois.

Why Hire the Cancer Misdiagnosis Attorneys at Levin & Perconti?

Our medical malpractice lawyers have been helping misdiagnosed cancer patients recover substantial compensation for more than 30 years since our establishment in 1992. When you have been the victim of medical malpractice, you need a legal team with experience and resources to stand up to large medical malpractice insurance companies. 

Our attorneys have more than 200 years of combined experience providing skilled advocacy for patients whose trust in their doctors was betrayed by medical negligence. We have seen firsthand the devastation caused by a cancer misdiagnosis, and we are passionate about getting justice for our clients and holding negligent doctors accountable. 

If a lung cancer misdiagnosis has harmed you or your loved one, you need our attorneys on your side. We provide representation at no cost to you unless we win, so there is no risk in hiring our law firm. Contact us today to schedule a free consultation.