When Cancer Is Misdiagnosed as Rheumatoid Arthritis

by | Apr 25, 2022 | Medical Malpractice


When cancer is misdiagnosed as rheumatoid arthritis, a patient may receive unnecessary treatment or go without treatment that is desperately needed. Unnecessary treatment could fail to help the patient’s condition or worsen it. Cancer could progress to a stage where it is hard to treat or completely untreatable. In some instances, the available treatment options could be significantly more aggressive. 

If you have suffered injuries or serious health complications due to the misdiagnosis of cancer as rheumatoid arthritis, you might have grounds for a medical malpractice case. This case will determine whether the medical provider violated the relevant medical standard of care. In simple terms, would a medical provider with similar training within the same medical community have detected cancer under similar circumstances? 

What Is a Cancer Misdiagnosis? 

A cancer misdiagnosis happens when a medical provider assigns cancer symptoms to another medical condition or disease. It also happens when the provider fails to diagnose or detect cancer. The provider may fail to perform a cancer test, despite symptoms of cancer, or misinterpret a cancer test.

A doctor may, for instance, confuse cancer symptoms with those of rheumatoid arthritis and expose a patient to unnecessary treatment. Whether a doctor misdiagnoses cancer or fails to diagnose cancer, he or she fails to provide patients with adequate care for their illness.

A cancer misdiagnosis can expose a patient to unnecessary treatments that inflict serious injuries or increase the risk of death. It may cause a delay in the accurate diagnosis and treatment of cancer in the initial stages when it’s more easily curable. It may also cause cancer to spread to other body parts and require unpleasant treatment procedures.

Patients may suspect a cancer misdiagnosis when their condition worsens rather than improves. They can seek a second opinion from another doctor that may perform more comprehensive tests and carefully reviews the results to detect cancer. 

Common Causes of Cancer Misdiagnosis 

A cancer misdiagnosis can occur due to the following four reasons:

False Negative 

A false negative happens when a medical provider fails to diagnose a patient’s cancer despite the patient’s concerns. Cancer remains undetected and continues to spread and worsen. False negatives are the main cause of delayed diagnosis in cancer patients. 

False Positive 

A false positive occurs when a medical provider confuses cancer with another medical condition. In rare cases, a provider may diagnose a patient with cancer when the patient does not have cancer. This type of misdiagnosis might happen when samples or test results get assigned to the wrong patient due to mistakes in the laboratory.

Diagnosing the Wrong Type of Cancer  

Different cancer types require different treatment plans. Mistaking uterine cancer for cervical cancer, for instance, may result in the administration of incorrect forms of treatments. The patient may suffer serious injuries or develop health complications from unnecessary treatment. Untreated cancer can also progress, causing more suffering to the patient.

Failure to Detect an Underlying Condition 

Cancer patients may also have an underlying condition that the doctor overlooks because of the cancer diagnosis. Failure to treat the underlying condition can cause cancer to exacerbate and prevent the patient from recovering. An untreated underlying condition usually renders a cancer treatment plan ineffective.

Common Cancer Misdiagnosis Warning Signs 

Uncovering a cancer diagnosis is not an easy task. The reason is that some cancer treatment plans may fail to generate the expected outcome, despite an accurate diagnosis. Certain clues, however, can help you discover when you are dealing with a cancer misdiagnosis. They include, but are not limited to:

  • Doctors failed to gather all the information required to make an accurate diagnosis. They should collect your family history, symptoms, surgical history, and all your medicines and supplements. 
  • The doctor performed minimal testing. 
  • The prescribed treatment is not helping your condition. Instead, your condition is worsening. 
  • The doctor is unwilling to try other options despite the prescribed treatment or medication proving ineffective. 
  • The doctor ignored your concerns or questions after the initial diagnosis. 

If you suspect a cancer misdiagnosis, you should seek a second opinion as soon as possible. If it confirms your suspicion, you need to change the treatment plan quickly. You also need to hold the responsible medical provider liable for your damages. It is hard to win a medical malpractice case because the burden of proof is high and lies with you in most states, including Illinois.

How Can a Medical Malpractice Lawyer Help After a 

Cancer Misdiagnosis?

Determining if You Have a Case 

Sometimes it’s hard to tell if you have a case because of the high burden of proof associated with medical malpractice. A skilled medical malpractice attorney can look at your medical records and identify patterns of negligence and malpractice. Your attorney will then advise you on the best legal option for holding the at-fault medical provider liable and obtaining compensation. 

Proving the Elements of Medical Malpractice 

After determining that you have a cancer misdiagnosis case, your attorney will assemble the evidence 

necessary to prove the four elements of medical malpractice. These elements include a physician-patient relationship, physician’s negligence, harm arising from the physician’s negligence, and damages stemming from the harm.

Securing Expert Witnesses

Expert testimony is essential in a cancer misdiagnosis case. An expert witness can help demonstrate how your doctor violated the duty to make an accurate cancer diagnosis. The witness will explain what steps a similarly trained doctor would have taken under similar circumstances to avoid your cancer misdiagnosis. The expert witness must be a doctor or similar medical professional.

An attorney who has represented medical malpractice victims for several years will have established professional relationships with the best medical practitioners in the industry. The attorney will know which medical practitioner will be the best expert witness in your case.

Meeting Filing Deadlines 

Your attorney will protect your rights to compensation by filing your case within your state’s statute of limitations. In Illinois, you must file your cancer misdiagnosis lawsuit within two years from the day you recognized or should have recognized the misdiagnosis. If you don’t discover your misdiagnosis immediately, you will have up to four years from the date of the alleged misdiagnosis to file a claim.  

Claiming All Recoverable Damages 

Your attorney can determine the damages you can recover in your cancer misdiagnosis case. The attorney will break down the damages into special damages and general damages. Special damages are easy to calculate and prove. They include medical bills, lost earnings, and other verifiable expenses stemming from the misdiagnosis.

General damages are harder to calculate. They include pain and suffering, loss of quality of life, and loss of consortium. Your attorney can recover the damages for you by negotiating with the liable medical provider’s insurer or arguing your case before the judge or jury.


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