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Delay in Diagnosis of Cancer

July 27, 2022

The National Cancer Institute found that an estimated 1.8 million new cases of cancer will be diagnosed in the United States, and more than 600,000 people will die from the disease in  the next year.

Prostate, lung, and colorectal cancers made up about a third (43%) of all cancers diagnosed in men in 2020. For women, the three most common cancers were breast, lung, and colorectal cancer. These accounted for half (50%) of all new cancer diagnoses in women in 2020.

In addition, the rate of new cases of cancer is 442.4 per 100,000 men and women per year, and the cancer death rate is 158.3 per 100,000 men and women per year based on the most recent data. The misdiagnosis of cancer is a serious issue that can harm cancer patients greatly.

What is a Delayed Cancer Diagnosis?

Delayed diagnosis of cancer happens when a physician does not properly observe and identify signs of cancer in a patient. The basis of a delayed cancer diagnosis lawsuit claim that the physician had reasonable evidence of cancer signs and symptoms but acted negligently by failing to investigate the possibility of cancer.

In many cases, a patient’s cancer doesn’t exhibit clear signs until later stages, when the cancer may have metastasized or spread to other parts of the body. One of the most common reasons for delayed diagnosis is a physician’s failure to identify more subtle, early symptoms of the condition. There are, however, some instances when a delayed diagnosis is unavoidable due to a lack of observable symptoms. This can be when cancer screening indicates false negative results.

Physician negligence may play a part in delayed diagnosis of cancer that displays medically clear and suggestive symptoms. When this happens, delayed diagnosis is the result of the doctor’s failure to follow proper cancer diagnosis processes and procedures. This includes:

  • Failure to inquire about the patient’s condition;
  • Failure to provide appropriate testing; and
  • Failure to correctly interpret symptoms and test results can contribute to delayed diagnosis.

A delayed diagnosis of cancer can result in dire consequences. Many patients miss a critical time window in which cancer treatment may have been most effective. Thus, the time when the cancer is left untreated may let the cancer grow and spread to other parts of the body. This may make treatment more difficult. Moreover, in some cases, a delayed cancer diagnosis leads to an inability to cure the patient’s cancer, resulting in death.

What Are Some Examples of Diagnostic Negligence?

In addition to the examples of a doctor’s failure to follow proper cancer diagnosis processes and procedures listed above, other examples of diagnostic evidence or a delay in a cancer diagnosis include:

  • Failure to provide standard screening according to the national recommendations, such as routine colonoscopies for those age 50+;
  • Disregarding patient complaints and symptoms that align with a possible cancer diagnosis;
  • Failure to seek additional testing for symptoms or abnormal cancer screening results;
  • Failure to refer a patient to an appropriate cancer specialist, such as a gynecologic oncologist for suspected cervical cancer;
  • Failure to disclose test results—whether normal or abnormal—with the patient; and
  • Failure to consider a patient’s previous diagnoses, medical history, or family history of cancer during the diagnosis.


Delayed diagnosis can and does impact all types of cancer patients, and the consequences of a delayed diagnosis—and, as a result, delayed treatment—are usually significantly more severe for those dealing with the most aggressive forms of cancer.

If you or a loved one has suffered harm due to a missed or delayed cancer diagnosis, contact an experienced medical malpractice attorney at Buchanan Firm in Michigan for a free consultation. We can discuss your situation if you believe you’ve been injured as the result of a misdiagnosis, missed diagnosis, or an error in lab results.

Our firm proudly serves people all across Michigan, including major cities like Grand Rapids, Muskegon, Detroit, Lansing, Holland, St. Joe, and Ann Arbor, and rural towns such as Lowell, Ada, Fremont, Newaygo, Grand Haven, Rockford, and Cedar Springs. We will meet you after-hours, at home or in the hospital to accommodate you.