When treating cancer the goal is always to obtain as early a diagnosis as possible so as to give the cancer patient the best possible odds. However, sometimes an early diagnosis is not possible. Sometimes there are no warning signs that something is wrong until the cancerous tumors have reached a later stage in development. But sometimes the warning signs are missed and the cancer is misdiagnosed as something else, in which case there would be an Illinois medical malpractice claim for failure to diagnose cancer.
A recent settlement of an Illinois woman illustrates this point. The Cook County resident filed an Illinois medical malpractice lawsuit against her orthopedic surgeon for a failure to diagnose cancer in her elbow. The delay in diagnosis required an amputation of her right arm in order to try and halt the cancer from spreading. However, this strategy did not work and the cancer metastasized to other areas of her body within the following year.
In order for there to be an Illinois medical malpractice case regarding a delayed diagnosis of cancer there needs to be evidence in the cancer patient’s medical records that medical professionals missed clear signs of the patient’s cancer. For this particular woman that sign came in the form of an MRI of her right elbow.
The woman had been referred by her primary care physician to an orthopedic surgeon to diagnose and treat her enlarged right elbow. The orthopedic surgeon ordered an MRI which showed a large mass in the woman’s elbow. Upon receiving the MRI studies the orthopedic surgeon failed to consider soft-tissue cancer as a possible diagnosis and instead diagnosed the Illinois woman with a ligament injury. Typically, the medical standard of care would be to rule out more serious illnesses, such as cancer, first. However, that was not done in this woman’s case.
The Illinois plaintiff contended that if the orthopedic surgeon had instead considered her cancer at the time of her MRI then it would have led to an aspiration of her elbow and a diagnosis of her cancer. Instead the woman was referred to physical therapy for her supposed ligament injury. When she did not respond to the physical therapy she turned to another orthopedic surgeon for a second opinion.
On her first visit to the new orthopedic surgeon she was immediately referred to an oncologist, who then diagnosed the mass in her elbow as cancer. However, with the delay in diagnosis the cancer had grown to the point that it was encasing the nerves in her elbow and had spread to her bone.
Typically when a cancer has metastasized to the body’s bones it is considered in its advanced stages. In an effort to try and halt the cancer from spreading to other areas of the woman’s body via her bones her oncologist elected to amputate her arm and all the tumors found there. However, this aggressive treatment plan did not keep the cancer from returning. Within a year after her delayed diagnosis and resulting amputation she was diagnosed with cancer that had metastasized to her lungs.
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