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Is it malpractice when a doctor misses a cancer diagnosis?

Wichita, KS |

I had a spot on my shoulder so I went to a dermatologist. He took a biopsy and he said it was not cancer. 2 years later it keeps growing so I had it rechecked by another doctor. He said it was cancer and I've had it for many years.

Attorney Answers 4


  1. It's hard to know. Possibly it wasn't cancer when your first dermatologist checked, but later became cancerous. Typically it is pathologists who evaluate tissue samples; it's unclear who evaluated the biopsy your first dermatologist took. Maybe the pathologist (if there was one_ got it wrong!

    In any event, malpractice requires a breach of the standard of care. Doctors have plenty of room to be wrong about a diagnosis without committing malpractice. The question is whether the average doctor practicing that specialty would have missed the diagnosis, given the information your doctor had. It's hard to know without hiring a pathologist to review the medical records and microscopically evaluate the tissue samples. And that typically costs significant money.

    A lawyer who takes medical malpractice cases in your state may help you to evaluate whether actionable malpractice occurred in your circumstance. Be aware that these cases are very expensive to litigate, making all but the most serious damages cost-prohibitive to pursue.

    Not legal advice as I don't practice law in Kansas. It's just my two cents on the facts you describe in light of general principles of law. If you need legal advice, please consult a lawyer who holds Kansas licensure. That's not me as I practice in Vermont ONLY.


  2. Mr. Taylor gave a good informative answer. Here are some other thoughts for you to consider. What kind of cancer is it? What stage is it in? What treatment do you need now that you didn't need before? Basal cell cancer is a very common form of skin cancer that is rarely fatal so a delay in diagnosis usually doesn't matter. Almost everybody with basal cell can be cured. Malignant melanoma is another common form of skin cancer that is much more dangerous. There may be other more less common forms of skin cancer. Whether you have a dangerous cancer is really the first thing you need to know. Another issue is whether the statute of limitations in your state might bar you from suing. If you don't know the answer to the questions about your cancer, talk to your doctor right away. Once you have the information, if it seems that you have something to worry about, talk to a medical malpractice lawyer

    Any opinions stated in response to Avvo questions are based upon the facts stated in the question. Responses to Avvo questions are for general information purposes only, and should not be construed or relied upon as legal advice.


  3. The determination of whether or not there was malpractice is very difficult to diagnose. If the doctor took a biopsy, and the lab and missed it, there may be a cause of action against the lab if they determine that it was non-cancerous. I would recommend that you contact a medical malpractice attorney in Wichita who will be able to determine whether or not there was malpractice. Furthermore, the issues that you have raised here do not address the underlying damages/causation... what were you diagnosed with? What was your prognosis? You will ahve to gather a lot of information prior to seeing an attorney including all of your records.


  4. The spot may have become cancerous later. Have a local malpractice lawyer order your records to review.