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The Impact of a Missed Prostate Cancer Diagnosis

New York City leading medial malpractice trial lawyer

New York medical malpractice trial attorney, Jonathan C. Reiter, explains the potentially disastrous consequences of a delay in diagnosis and offers his advice on the best course of action to take.

As the second most common type of cancer among men according to the American Cancer Society, around 1 in 9 men will receive a diagnosis of prostate cancer during their lifetime. (To put that number into context: 1 in 8 women are diagnosed with breast cancer.) Each year, there are approximately 174,000 new prostate cancer diagnoses in the United States, and it results in nearly 31,000 annual deaths. Fortunately, prostate cancer is highly treatable, and most men diagnosed with it survive. 

But what can happen when a doctor fails to diagnose prostate cancer? Or when a delay in diagnosis requires a patient to undergo much more involved and life-changing treatment?

Because prostate cancer is rare in men under age 40, some doctors may dismiss the possibility entirely. When they fail to test for it, a patient’s long-term health and well-being can suffer irreversible impact. In extreme cases, a missed diagnosis can even lead to death.

The Importance of Early Diagnosis of Prostate Cancer 

Prostate cancer is generally highly treatable, which makes a missed diagnosis even more devastating. The American Cancer Society states that 3.1 million men in the U.S. today have survived prostate cancer. Without a proper medical diagnosis, it’s likely many of them would not have survived. 

Oncologists use a figure called the five-year survival rate to assist in the prognosis of different forms of cancer. The five-year survival rate indicates the percentage of patients diagnosed with a particular condition that are still alive five years after their diagnosis. In the case of prostate cancer, those with local or regional cases (that is, the tumors have remained confined to the prostate and surrounding organs), the five-year survival rate is close to 100%. But when the cancer spreads to other parts of the body, this number plummets to 30%. The later the diagnosis, the more likely the cancer has spread to remote parts of the body.     

Screening for Prostate Cancer

Health experts and cancer prevention guidelines recommend that men receive a prostate cancer screening from a primary care doctor or urologist every two to four years starting at the age of 50. Men with a family history of prostate cancer and men of African-American descent are at higher risk for prostate cancer, and should discuss receiving an earlier screening with their doctor. 

Recent advances have made the detection of prostate cancer more reliable. There are currently two tests used by doctors to screen patients for prostate cancer. The most common form of screening is a rectal exam, during which doctors check the prostate for irregularities that could indicate a tumor or the beginnings of one.

Additionally, doctors may administer a prostate-specific antigen blood test (PSA), which measures a protein produced by the prostate that may be elevated if there is cancer present. Because PSA is always present in the male body and elevated levels can be indicative of conditions other than cancer, physicians cannot rely solely on this test to make a diagnosis. However, abnormally elevated PSA warrants further testing such as a prostate biopsy.

What Are the Symptoms of Prostate Cancer?

It’s important to note that not every man with prostate cancer will exhibit symptoms. This is what makes it critical to be screened for the disease at regular intervals.

In cases where symptoms are produced, they may include:

  • Frequent urge to urinate which may worsen at night.
  • Difficulty beginning to urinate, or a weak or interrupted stream of urine.
  • Pain, discomfort, or a burning sensation during urination. 
  • Pain in the lower back, upper thigh, or hip.
  • Presence of blood in semen or urine.
  • Difficulty achieving or maintaining an erection (erectile dysfunction).
  • Pain during ejaculation.

Not everyone knows how important it is to be regularly screened for prostate cancer, and many men don’t realize that the risk for developing prostate cancer increases with age. When doctors fail to inform their patients of their screening options, diagnosis may be missed or delayed.

Damages Caused by a Doctor’s Prostate Cancer Misdiagnosis or Delayed Diagnosis

Like many cancers, prostate cancer has a much higher survival rate when it’s caught early. Patients who are diagnosed early may be able to avoid overly invasive treatment altogether. This can improve their quality of life, reduce their stress levels, and allow them to remain active and keep working while undergoing treatment. An early diagnosis can also keep a patient’s medical expenses low.

When a doctor misdiagnoses or delays a prostate cancer diagnosis, patients may suffer unnecessary physical pain and emotional anguish, including permanent loss of sexual function due to aggressive treatment, scarring, removal of organs, and even death. Patients who undergo invasive cancer treatment may never fully recover their physical health, which puts them at risk for having to leave the workforce, therefore impacting their entire family. 

Failure to Diagnose Prostate Cancer 

Men who have suffered a missed or delayed diagnosis of their prostate cancer may be entitled to receive compensation for their injuries and other damages suffered. This is why it’s important to contact a medical malpractice lawyer who has an established history of handling cases in the area of medical misdiagnosis and medical malpractice. 

About the author: Attorney Jonathan C. Reiter medical malpractice attorney 

Jonathan C. Reiter is a medical malpractice attorney esteemed for his successful track record in medical malpractice verdicts and settlements. No financial compensation can replace a man’s unnecessary death, or the pain endured by his family members. Because premature death may create a huge financial burden on the family left behind, having a compassionate lawyer on your side is essential. When your story is a medical tragedy, Attorney Jonathan C. Reiter, a renowned medical malpractice attorney with offices in Manhattan, Bronx & Queens, is available for a no-fee consultation. 

Sources:

  1. https://www.cancer.org/cancer/prostate-cancer/about/key-statistics.html 
  2. https://www.cancer.net/cancer-types/prostate-cancer/statistics
  3. https://www.cancer.gov/types/prostate/psa-fact-sheet
  4. https://www.breastcancer.org/symptoms/understand_bc/statistics#targetText=About%201%20in%208%20U.S.,(in%20situ)%20breast%20cancer.

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