Determining whether or not you have cancer is usually a multi-step process. Dependent on the type of cancer, the process can look a little different, but it usually starts with displaying symptoms consistent with a cancer diagnosis. This is not always true in the case of breast cancer, colon cancer, or other types of cancer where screening tests are performed proactively.
If you go to the doctor showing signs of cancer, the doctor will usually first perform a physical test to determine whether or not to proceed to other diagnostics. The physical test will be specific to the type of cancer but often includes manipulating body parts while asking for pain or searching for physical abnormalities. If the physical test is consistent with cancer, the next step is usually to utilize medical imaging devices of various sorts. These include mammograms, X-rays, PET scans, CT scans and a variety of other tests. Though these are useful diagnostic tools, they can rarely provide a definitive diagnosis. For this, there is usually one more step a doctor will take.
Biopsies are often the only way to be sure of a cancer diagnosis. To perform a biopsy, the doctor will take a small sample of tissue from the potentially affected organ. This tissue will be examined under a microscope for cancer cells. If cancer cells are found, the doctor is able to make a proper diagnosis. Some biopsies are very simple but others, such as bone marrow biopsies, can be extremely painful.
Though every person’s experience is different, these steps are commonplace in cancer diagnoses. Unfortunately, each step is an opportunity for a doctor to miss a diagnosis they should make. A doctor can fail to properly interpret symptoms, or a diagnostic test can be misread. Even a biopsy can be performed improperly. If you have any questions regarding the diagnosis process, ask your doctor, or you can consider getting a second opinion.
If you or a loved one suffered because a doctor missed your cancer diagnosis, please contact an experienced attorney. Missed diagnoses are frightfully common, and only by holding doctors accountable can we lessen their incidence. A qualified lawyer will be able to guide you through the process of making your case and obtaining the compensation to which you are entitled.