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Can You Sue for a Delayed Prostate Cancer Diagnosis?

Prostate cancer is one of the most common cancers for men. According to the American Cancer Society, about 1 in 8 men will be diagnosed with prostate cancer, and 1 in 44 will die from it. However, the disease is different for each person. With less aggressive cancers, a man and his doctor might only watch the cancer, sometimes for years. High grade prostate cancer, however, is at risk of spreading, so a patient might immediately receive treatment. A correct diagnosis is critical for helping men choose the right treatment option.

Sadly, many medical errors can delay diagnosis. A man might only be diagnosed after feeling pain in his bones or noticing a swollen lymph node. At that point, the cancer has likely spread, and the prognosis is less optimistic. Had the patient received a timely diagnosis, he might have even cured the cancer.

Contact Powers & Santola, LLP. A delayed cancer diagnosis attorney will review the facts to check if you can sue.

Prostate Cancer Symptoms

The prostate is a walnut-sized gland surrounding parts of the urethra, which makes semen. The most common signs of prostate cancer include:

  • Blood in the urine or semen
  • Difficulty urinating
  • Increased urgency to urinate
  • Erectile dysfunction
  • Pain in the hips or back (when it has spread)

Many medical conditions can cause these symptoms, and some conditions involving the prostate are benign. Still, a patient should go to the doctor.

How is Prostate Cancer Diagnosed?

Prostate screening is common. Beginning in a man’s 40s, he should have prostate-specific antigen testing, called PSA. This test measures the antigen levels in the blood. An increasing number signals possible prostate cancer. A doctor might also perform a digital rectal exam to feel the prostate for abnormalities.

Ultimately, diagnosis is by biopsy. A urologist removes prostate samples and studies them for cancer. Doctors will also “grade” any cancer they find by giving it a Gleason score. Generally, the higher the score, the more aggressive the cancer.

Prostate Cancer Treatment

There are many treatment options. For low-risk cancers, a patient and his doctor might opt for surveillance or “watchful waiting.” But more aggressive treatments typically require surgery, radiation, or hormone therapy (or some combination).

Prognosis is excellent when diagnosed early. In fact, the relative 5-year survival rate is an astounding 99% for localized prostate cancer. But once cancer spreads, then the relative 5-year survival rate falls to 34%.

What Causes a Delayed Prostate Cancer Diagnosis?

Because this is a common cancer, physicians should know about screening protocols. Early detection is critical, as the above relative 5-year survival rates illustrate. Nonetheless, diagnosis is sometimes delayed for various reasons:

  • Lost or mixed-up PSA test results
  • Failure to advise a patient to engage in PSA screening
  • Improper digital rectal exam
  • Failure to detect an abnormal prostate gland in a DRE
  • Neglecting to order a biopsy in a timely manner
  • Lost biopsy results
  • Misreported biopsy results

Any of these mistakes could prevent a medical team from diagnosing prostate cancer in a timely manner when treatment is most effective.

Your Legal Claim for Delayed Diagnosis

Our lawyers will collect evidence to prove your physician or urologist failed to use reasonable care when treating you. In these cases, we always ask what a skilled, trained physician would have done and then compare your doctor’s actions to that standard. For example, a doctor should explain PSA testing, its importance, and its risk and benefits. A physician should also interpret any results accurately and determine next steps, such as a possible digital rectal exam. That’s the minimum we should expect of a physician whose patient is a man in his 40s. When a physician fails to do any of this, we can usually sue for delayed diagnosis.

We seek compensation for economic damages, including:

  • Past and future medical expenses—Once cancer spreads, a patient could need chemotherapy or other treatment.
  • Lost income—A man might be unable to work while he is receiving treatment for prostate cancer.
  • Loss of earning capacity—Our client might suffer future income loss, especially if he is in so much pain he can’t work.

We can also seek damages for non-economic losses, such as:

  • Physical pain
  • Depression
  • Mental anguish
  • Loss of consortium

If a loved one dies from the cancer, then we can help family members bring a wrongful death claim.

How Physicians Defend these Cases

We have seen defendants raise some common arguments with prostate cancer cases, including:

  • The patient chose not to start PSA screening.
  • The patient refused to schedule and/or attend a biopsy.
  • The cancer was caught in time and the patient suffered no or little economic loss or pain.
  • The cancer was already so aggressive that timely diagnosis would not have made a difference in patient outcome.

Some of these defenses lay the blame at the feet of the patient. PSA screening is not mandatory, and some men choose not to have it. Of course, a doctor should nonetheless explain the risks of not screening so patients can make an informed choice.

Alternatively, the defendant might claim the cancer was already so aggressive that timely diagnosis would have made little difference. We work with medical experts to analyze the validity of that defense. In many cases, a patient could have lessened their pain and extended their life, even if they ultimately would die from the disease.

Hire an Experienced Medical Malpractice Attorney

Our lawyers have deep experience in delayed cancer diagnosis cases. We use this experience to build a claim and then negotiate with the physician, urologist, radiologist, and/or hospital on the other side.

Settlement is sometimes possible. When we reach an agreement, you can receive compensation without the risk and stress of a trial. Some defendants are eager to settle, but it’s ultimately up to the medical malpractice insurer on the other side.

Other cases are litigated to trial. If so, a jury will decide whether the defendant followed the correct standard of care and whether any breach harmed you. The jury will also determine how much compensation you should receive if you win.

Call Powers & Santola today to schedule your free, no-risk consultation.

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