Failure to Diagnose Pancreatic Cancer

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New Jersey Pancreatic Cancer Attorneys for Misdiagnosis and Failure to Diagnose

NJ Pancreatic Cancer Misdiagnosis Lawyers

Often, in cases involving cancer misdiagnosis and failure to diagnose cancer, the timely recognition of cancer warning signs can spell the difference between life and death. In specific cases involving pancreatic cancer, which accounts for approximately 3% of all cancers in the United States and approximately 7% of all cancer deaths, timely diagnosis and treatment is imperative to survival. When cancer is diagnosed in its earlier stages, options for treatment and patient outcomes are significantly improved. The American Cancer Society’s projection about the number of Americans living with pancreatic cancer in 2024 is sobering. According to the American Cancer Society, approximately 66,440 people will receive a pancreatic cancer diagnosis this year. Tragically, 51,750 pancreatic cancer cases will result in fatalities. However, a pancreatic cancer prognosis does not have to be dismal. The disease is more likely curable with an early diagnosis. In fact, nearly 10% of pancreatic cancer patients survive and overcome cancer with prompt diagnosis and treatment. Thus, early diagnosis is crucial to less treatment and higher survival rates.

At Fronzuto Law Group, we work with medical malpractice victims every day, providing support to our clients while aggressively pursuing maximum compensation. If you or a loved one suffered harm as a result of pancreatic cancer misdiagnosis or delayed diagnosis in New Jersey, contact our offices today at 973-435-4551 to speak with a New Jersey medical malpractice attorney who will provide you with a cost-free consultation.

Delayed Diagnosis of Pancreatic Cancer

Delayed diagnosis is among leading causes of medical malpractice claims involving pancreatic cancer. In these situations, such negligence can result in more aggressive treatment than would have been the course to take had the cancer been diagnosed earlier. Additionally, a diagnosis delay will likely eliminate some treatment options, while increasing the length and intensity of others, such as chemotherapy and radiation treatments. In other instances, the delay could result in a shorter life span. Most tragically, the delay can cause someone to die when the cancer spreads to other areas of the body.

Factors that Increase the Likelihood of Developing Pancreatic Cancer

The are certain risk factors for pancreatic cancer that doctors should be aware of, including:

  • Smoking
  • Being overweight or obese
  • Age (over 45)
  • Certain inherited diseases and syndromes
  • Diabetes
  • Chronic pancreatitis
  • Cirrhosis of the liver
  • Stomach conditions

Common Signs of Pancreatic Cancer that Doctors May Miss

Although pancreatic cancer may be difficult to diagnose, specialists in this type of cancer know what to look and test for to confirm a diagnosis. By the time you feel symptoms, the disease has likely already progressed. You may experience stomach pain that circles the back or side of your body, appetite loss, resulting weight loss, jaundice, ashy-colored stools, dark urine, fever, blood clots, and itchiness. You may experience indigestion, arm or leg swelling, fatigue, nausea, vomiting, or uncontrolled or initial onset of diabetes. While these symptoms are general, they are all possible signs of pancreatic cancer. If your doctor fails to follow-up about potential symptoms, this can significantly worsen your prognosis.

Leading Causes of Pancreatic Cancer Misdiagnosis

Many of the symptoms of pancreatic cancer manifest like other conditions, such as gallbladder problems, heartburn, reflux, stomach ulcer, IBS (irritable bowel syndrome), muscle pain, and intestinal infection. Once a doctor misdiagnoses your condition as one of these conditions, rather than testing for pancreatic cancer, the clock starts ticking against you. If you return to the doctor after the condition worsens or does not go away, the doctor may then send you for diagnostic tests. The additional time between onset and symptoms and correct diagnosis can be fatal. 

Similarly, it is absolutely imperative for doctors to order appropriate tests and to read these test results accurately. In some cases, a doctor orders an MRI or another test, which they subsequently fail to thoroughly review. This can also lead to delayed or misdiagnosis.

How Can Timely Diagnosis Impact Treatment Options for Pancreatic Cancer?

Once you get a valid diagnosis after blood tests, CT scans, biopsies, and other testing, it is time to consider treatment options, which depend on the cancer stage, other health conditions, age, life expectancy, likelihood of a cure, and side effects. Cancer stages correspond with how far the cancer spreads, stage IV being the worst when the cancer has spread expansively to other body areas and stage I being the best when the cancer has not spread from the pancreas. Pancreatic cancer typically spreads in time. 

Treatment options include surgery, ablation, embolization, radiation therapy, chemotherapy, targeted therapy, immunotherapy, and pain control. Surgery may consist of an initial laparoscopy to find out if the cancer has spread, and if it has not, then another surgery to remove the tumor or a partial or complete pancreatectomy. Surgery to remove the tumor may not be an option once the cancer spreads to other areas. 

Ablation and embolization destroy tumors, as do chemotherapy and radiation, which are typically combined. Targeted therapy uses specific medications to target specific cancers rather than generalized chemotherapy, and immunotherapy activates the body’s immune system to fight cancer cells. One or more treatments may be most effective in combination. However, the more time passes, the fewer the options and the less effective the treatment. 

Recovering Damages for Medical Malpractice Involving Pancreatic Cancer

If you suspect that your doctor caused you or your loved one to incur additional treatment, medical costs, sick days from work, pain and suffering, or death due to negligent medical practice involving pancreatic cancer, it is highly advisable to speak with a medical malpractice attorney about the sequence of events in your case and what can be done to recover your damages. When a physician is negligent in diagnosing or referring the patient to a specialist who can diagnose the condition, they may be held liable for economic and non-economic losses due to protracted treatment, death, pain, and suffering. 

In a medical malpractice lawsuit, you can pursue general, special, and punitive damages. General damages consist of non-economic damages, such as pain, suffering, depression, mental anguish, and loss of life enjoyment. These are damages that are difficult to quantify, unlike special damages, which include medical costs and lost wages from missed work, as well as loss of future financial employment. Punitive damages are solely related to intentional or reckless acts that caused damages. Their purpose is to punish the offender. N.J.S.A 2A:12-5.14 caps those damages at $350,000 or five times the total compensatory damages (general and special), whichever is greater. Compensatory damages have no cap in New Jersey.

Establishing Liability for Pancreatic Cancer Negligence

To prove medical malpractice, you must establish a doctor-patient relationship in which the doctor owes you a duty to provide the appropriate standard of care, as determined by the course of action that similarly trained, experienced, and specialized physicians would take under similar circumstances. You must also prove that the doctor’s failing to treat you in the same manner as other similarly situated physicians was a breach of their duty and caused your injuries, for example, worsened pancreatic cancer.

In other words, if other doctors who came across your symptoms and your medical history would have run tests right away to eliminate cancer possibilities, then your physician may have breached their duty of care. Finally, you must prove the doctor’s negligence caused you damages, such as financial, physical, and emotional losses. 

Importance of Taking Legal Action if Pancreatic Cancer Malpractice Happens to You in NJ

If you are interested in filing a medical malpractice lawsuit after you or someone you love suffered harm because a doctor failed to diagnose or misdiagnosed pancreatic cancer, seeking legal counsel as soon as possible is vital. The many details you need to consider when filing a medical malpractice claim can be overwhelming. However, the knowledgeable medical malpractice lawyers at Fronzuto Law Group can play a pivot role to ensure that you receive just compensation.

N.J.S.A. 2A:14-2 states that you have two years from the date of your injury or knowledge of your injury due to a medical professional’s negligence to file a lawsuit. Within that time, you must thoroughly investigate your claim, including a review and affidavit of merit from a medical expert. Our New Jersey medical malpractice attorneys can guide you through the entire process of investigating and filing a medical malpractice claim. Call our office at 973-435-4551 soon as you suspect that a healthcare provider failed to diagnose or misdiagnosed pancreatic cancer. Our team will provide you with a free case review.

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