Cancer is a disease that has no bounds – anybody, of any age can get cancer. It is particularly heartbreaking when a young person has been diagnosed with cancer. But a delayed cancer diagnosis could make this terrible situation even worse.
When a child has been diagnosed with cancer, their whole world immediately changes. Family members often have their lives turned upside-down overnight and most everyone has problems coping and adjusting to this disease. The diagnosis of cancer brings also individual risks for the family members in terms of psychological and physical health impairment. Emotional reactions can run the gamut, from anger to resentment, to guilt and even denial of the disease. It is often difficult to understand cancer diagnoses and treatments, and if they have been timely.
Childhood Cancer Statistics
The American Cancer Society in 2017 estimated 5,270 children and adolescents ages 0 to 19 were diagnosed with cancer and 1,790 died of the disease. However, the good news is that about three-fourths of all cancers in children are curable <i>if they are diagnosed early enough </i> and treatment is managed properly. More than 80 percent of children with cancer now survive five years or more, thanks to advances in major treatments. This is a huge increase since the mid-1970s, when the five-year survival rate was only 58 percent.
Childhood cancer is relatively uncommon. However, leukemia remains the most common disease-related cause of death – more than asthma, diabetes, cystic fibrosis and AIDS combined. It is second only to injury-related deaths.
Delayed Diagnosis in Childhood Cancer
Despite advances in medical science, increased public awareness and guidelines on being alert for the first signs of the disease, medical mistakes and delayed diagnosis of cancer is an increasing problem throughout the U.S. (The American Cancer Society reports that childhood cancer rates have been rising slightly for the past few decades.) Doctors who are not alert in diagnosing symptoms can delay treatment of their patients – and put lives at risk.
If you believe that your child’s cancer diagnosis was delayed or missed entirely and resulted in a worse prognosis or harsher treatment regimen, you may want to seek legal help. Child medical malpractice attorney Jeffrey Killino has extensive expertise and experience with all types of child cancer cases, including delayed diagnosis. If you believe that your child’s delay in diagnosis was due to hospital negligence or error, attorney Killino can help you obtain justice from the responsible parties.
Call 877-875-2927 for a free assessment of your case and additional information regarding your legal rights and options.
A number of factors contribute to a missed or delayed childhood cancer. A cancer like leukemia is rarely undetected. A brain tumor, however, can be misdiagnosed due to other childhood maladies – as seen in the 2017 movie called “The Book of Henry” where the character suffered from headaches for several months before a brain tumor (see below) was detected. In young children a cancer misdiagnosis can easily occur because they cannot explain or interpret signs and symptoms. They must rely on their parents to do so. On the other hand, cancer in young people is very rare and symptoms of cancer could also be signs of other, everyday illnesses.
The Teenage Cancer Trust – a cancer support and advocacy group in England–found that more than a third of young people visited their family doctor with cancer symptoms five times before being referred to a specialist. One study conducted at the University of Edinburgh (2016) found that delayed diagnosis is a major contributing factor to lower cancer survival.
The study showed that many parents believed their concerns about their child’s health were ignored and the young people also felt that they, and their concerns, were not taken seriously enough. Both the parents and young people felt there was a delay in diagnosis. And 93 percent of the young people questioned in the study believed the possibility their diagnosis was delayed also increased their emotional distress. (The definition for delayed diagnosis is “a diagnosis that was unintentionally delayed while sufficient information was available earlier.)
The most common reasons for a delayed diagnosis include (in order of occurrence)
- The medical practitioner did not conduct a sufficient medical examination
- Misattribution of symptoms
- Comorbidity (the presence of two diseases or conditions in a patient)
- Waiting for tests
- Waiting for non-urgent referrals to specialists
- Delays in the follow-up to tests and failure to properly review lab and diagnostic testing reports
Common Childhood Cancers
Cancers in children are found in different organs in the body and act differently than those that are found in adults. For instance, tumors in children often grow more quickly and spread to other parts of the body faster than in adults.
Here are the most common cancers found in children:
- Leukemia (32%)
- Brain cancer and other central nervous system tumors (19%)
- Neuroblastoma – cancer of nerve cells in very young children (11%)
- Wilms tumor – a kidney cancer
- Lymphoma – Hodgkin and non-Hodgkin (11%)
- Rhabdomyosarcoma (cancer of cells that normally develop into skeletal muscles)
- Retinoblastoma (an eye cancer)
- Bone cancer (including osteosarcoma and Ewing sarcoma).
Children are more likely to develop leukemia and lymphoma than adults.
In recent study published in the Journal of Clinical Oncology researchers
said they were “shocked” to discover how often brain tumors in children are misdiagnosed. Of 31 patients who had been diagnosed through traditional testing with central nervous system primitive neuroectodermal tumors (CNS-PNET), scientists found that 18 patients actually had glioblastoma, a very aggressive form of brain cancer.
“Traditional methods of diagnosing certain brain cancers in children are deeply flawed… As a result, some children with these particular rare tumors have been getting the wrong diagnoses and, in some cases, the wrong treatment,” the researchers said, and reported by fredhutch.com.
Diagnostic errors can also be a form of medical malpractice. An attorney may be able to help prove that a health care provider committed medical professional negligence by failing to diagnose a condition correctly.
A young boy noticed blood in his urine and told his mother. Alarmed, she called the pediatrician and that same day the boy had an examination and an x-ray: during the exam, the pediatrician felt a possible mass in the abdomen. The x-ray showed that the 4-year-old had Stage I Wilms Tumor in one of his kidneys. Because of the attentiveness of both mother and doctor, and timely diagnosis, the cancer was treated before it had a chance to spread to other organs. He is a healthy young adult today.
If your child’s cancer diagnosis was delayed or misdiagnosed as a result of negligence of medical malpractice, attorney Jeffrey Killino can help you hold those health professionals and/or the hospital accountable. Contact attorney Jeffrey Killino at 877-875-2927 for expert assistance with your child’s delayed cancer diagnosis claim.