Many types of cancer are easier to treat when diagnosed early. Unfortunately, your doctor may fail to recognize cancer symptoms, giving the disease a chance to spread before you seek treatment. 

Learn more about failure to diagnose cancer and determine whether you or a loved one should seek a second opinion. 

Understand the reasons for a missed diagnosis 

Knowing the factors that may cause a doctor to miss the presence of cancer can help you recognize these red flags. Failure to diagnose cancer or another serious health condition can occur when: 

  • The doctor mixes up or misreads the results of diagnostic tests. 
  • You notice frequent miscommunications between the staff and doctors at your health care facility. 
  • You have symptoms of cancer but the doctor does not recommend further diagnostic tests or refer you to a specialist. 
  • The doctor ignores your symptoms or attributes them to a minor ailment. 
  • The doctor does not perform a thorough physical exam when you express your symptoms. 
  • The doctor does not take a comprehensive family health history. 

Know your rights as a patient 

When seeking health care, you always have the right to get a second opinion. You may want to see another doctor if: 

  • You think your diagnosis is wrong. 
  • You do not think your doctor has taken your symptoms seriously. 
  • You want to explore tests and treatment options beyond what your current doctor will recommend. 
  • You do not feel comfortable with your doctor. 
  • You want to see a doctor who has more targeted specialization. 

You or your family member may have a medical malpractice case if you experience poor outcomes after a missed cancer diagnosis. 

In Massachusetts, patients have three years to file this type of lawsuit after they discover the failure to diagnose, but they must provide the doctor with at least 180 days’ written notice before filing a legal claim. In addition, patients and their attorneys must prove they have sufficient evidence or provide bond for the defendant’s legal fees before the case can move forward.