Can You Sue a Doctor for Missing Cancer?

Medical form for missed cancer diagnosis

Today, many types of cancers can be easily treated with a significant chance of full recovery as long as they are caught early. The longer cancer goes undetected and untreated, the greater the chance it will become much harder to treat with a lower prognosis. 

While some cancers are missed because of a lack of preventative care and screening, others are missed because doctors misdiagnose cancer. If a medical provider misdiagnosed your cancer, could you sue your doctor for a missed diagnosis? 

Establishing the Burden of Proof in Delayed Diagnosis

If you believe you might have a malpractice claim for failure to diagnose cancer, you must prove that your doctor didn’t provide an acceptable standard of care. The specifics of the standard of care will vary depending on the medical issue. However, it will usually be compared to the actions that other reasonable providers of similar training and experience would have taken in similar circumstances. In other words, you will need to show that other doctors would likely have correctly and timely diagnosed your cancer if given the same information and situation. 

You must also show that you have suffered harm or injury because of the delayed cancer diagnosis. This may include the extra cost of more intensive cancer treatment for a more advanced stage of cancer, lost income from missed work due to the effects of your cancer, or even reduced chance of survival or life expectancy. 

How Common Are Missed Cancer Diagnoses?

Unfortunately, cancer misdiagnoses and delayed diagnoses remain far too common. Especially in recent years, the COVID-19 pandemic has made it difficult for people to keep up with preventative care and screenings designed to catch cancer at early stages.

One study found that missed cancer diagnoses accounted for nearly 50 percent of primary care diagnostic errors. Lung, colorectal, prostate, and breast cancers were some of the most commonly misdiagnosed cancer types. Most cancer misdiagnoses were caused by errors in clinical judgment, including not getting diagnostic testing, a consult, or a referral. 

What Is the “Loss of Chance” Doctrine in Georgia?

Georgia and several other states in the U.S. have adopted a legal doctrine known as the “loss of chance” doctrine. This doctrine changes the traditional rules for liability in a medical malpractice claim. Normally, a doctor can only be held liable for a patient’s death where the doctor’s negligence caused or “substantially” contributed to the patient’s death. 

However, the loss of chance doctrine allows a doctor to be held liable for a misdiagnosis even if it was not a substantial factor in the patient’s death. Instead, the patient’s lower survival chances due to misdiagnosis from a doctor’s negligence will lead to legal liability. The loss of chance doctrine makes it easier to recover compensation in a missed cancer diagnosis lawsuit. 

Contact a Skilled Medical Malpractice Lawyer Today

If your doctor failed to diagnose or misdiagnosed your cancer, you could be entitled to seek financial compensation and accountability. Contact or call Geiger Legal Group, LLC today for a free consultation with our experienced medical malpractice attorneys about your legal options. 

About the Author: Geiger Legal Group, LLC

In 1981, attorney J. Christopher Geiger began practicing law in Canton, GA, determined to provide personalized legal service to the people of Cherokee County. His son Casey followed in his footsteps, first practicing law in Colorado before joining his father in 2017 to form the Geiger Legal Group, LLC. Together, the father and son team have built a law firm that revolves around clients, not cases.