Misdiagnosing Cancer in the Wake of Coronavirus It is safe to say that there is plenty of worry to go around these days particularly when it comes to your health. Staying vigilant about what even a sniffle could mean has become second nature to most of us. When you finally do decide it’s time to seek medical care, you expect to come away knowing what the problem is and how to solve it, but that’s not always the case.

Cancer misdiagnoses happen more often than people realize and now COVID-19 has further complicated that tragedy. Many countries are following the same guidance during the pandemic, including for the handling of potentially infected patients throughout healthcare systems. The UK has revealed that they have had delayed diagnosis or misdiagnosed cases of lung cancer and if it’s happening there, it’s likely happening here.

Confusing coronavirus symptoms is a problem

How many times have you heard or read instructions in the last 10 months that if you have any of the typical symptoms of Coronavirus that you should stay home and quarantine? Even many general practitioners are doing virtual or telephone screenings and rerouting their patients to medical facilities better equipped to handle the pandemic. Because coronavirus has taken over our lives and been the bulk of what the medical field has been dealing with for the better part of a year, physicians are conditioned to recognize certain symptoms as Covid-19 and that’s where they focus treatment. In fact, in the UK, cancer referrals dropped by 75% when the virus peaked over the Spring.

Common COVID-19 symptoms that put you on the self-quarantine list include:

  • Fever or chills
  • Cough
  • Shortness of breath or difficulty breathing
  • Fatigue
  • Muscle or body aches
  • Headache
  • New loss of taste or smell
  • Sore throat
  • Congestion or runny nose
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Diarrhea

According to the American Cancer Society, the most common symptoms of lung cancer are:

  • A chronic or worsening cough
  • Coughing up blood or rust-colored phlegm
  • Chest pain that is often worse with deep breathing, coughing, or laughing
  • Hoarseness
  • Loss of appetite
  • Unexplained weight loss
  • Shortness of breath
  • Feeling tired or weak
  • Recurring infections such as bronchitis and pneumonia
  • Wheezing, which can also occur in a COVID-19 victim with a chronic respiratory disease

Not every individual with COVID-19 will experience every symptom, just as lung cancer symptoms may not all surface in someone the same way. That said, there are several symptoms between both conditions that overlap.

COVID-19 may lead to medical malpractice claims

An assumption that someone who actually has lung cancer is just experiencing mild coronavirus symptoms can delay detection of a deadly disease. Likewise, failing to take the proper steps to get to the bottom of the diagnosis and distinguish the difference can mean that lung cancer is missed entirely until it’s much too late.

In 2019, lung cancer was the second highest cancer diagnosis in the District of Columbia, with 340 cases being reported and 180 deaths, and second in the country, with a total of 228,150 new cases and 142,670 deaths. Assuming the numbers for 2020 won’t be much different, there is a lot of potential for missed or delayed diagnosis of cancer, both of which may be grounds for a medical malpractice claim.

Ways a doctor may miss your cancer diagnosis include:

  • Failing to take a detailed medical history that may point toward cancer
  • Failure to conduct proper testing or complete a thorough exam
  • Misinterpreting or ignoring symptoms reported by the patient
  • Neglecting to screen for cancer while symptoms suggest the possibility
  • Not making a referral to a cancer specialist or relaying the referral
  • Ineffective communication or follow up between doctors, the lab, and other medical professionals
  • Inaccurate analysis of test results

Early detection and treatment are key to surviving lung cancer. Doctors experiencing COVID-19 fatigue may become complacent, and it can cost you or a family member his or her life. The bare basics for determining whether you have a medical malpractice claim requires:

  • The doctor owing you a duty of care sealed by an official doctor-patient relationship.
  • The doctor deviating from the standard of care common in his or her field of practice in that community.
  • There was negligence because of his or her failure to adhere to the standard of care that caused you physical/financial injury.

Please contact Paulson & Nace, PLLC through this contact form or by calling 202.463.1999.