Medical advances have dramatically improved outcomes for children and teens with cancer, but a patient's treatment options may be affected if the condition is initially misdiagnosed. If your child was misdiagnosed with a less serious condition before receiving cancer treatment, you may be able to file a medical malpractice claim.
How Common Is Pediatric Cancer?
Age is the single greatest risk factor for cancer. The Dana-Farber Cancer Institute reports that cancer risk increases significantly after age 50, with half of all diagnosed cancer cases occurring in people age 66 and above.
Cancer in children remains rare and is typically attributed to unpreventable genetic mutations. The National Cancer Institute reports an estimated 15,590 U.S. children and adolescents ages 0 to 19 were diagnosed with cancer in 2018.
The most common forms of cancer for children under 14 are leukemias. Other types of cancer associated with this age group include brain and central nervous system tumors, lymphomas, soft tissue sarcomas, neuroblastomas, and kidney tumors.
For teens ages 15 to 19, the most common types of cancer are brain and other central nervous system tumors and lymphomas. Other types of cancer associated with this age group include leukemias, gonadal (testicular and ovarian) germ cell tumors, thyroid cancer, and melanoma.
Why Are Children Misdiagnosed?
Since pediatric cancer is rare, a primary care physician may be more inclined to dismiss a previously healthy child's symptoms as a normal part of growing up. Unexplained bruising, an inability to bear weight, or pain or tenderness in a specific area may be dismissed as injuries caused by active play. Persistent headaches and complaints of abdominal pain may be dismissed as related to stress at home or in school.
Symptoms of cancer can also overlap with a number of other medical conditions. For example, a child complaining of severe headaches accompanied by vomiting may be initially diagnosed with migraines. Loss of appetite could be attributed to causes as varied as constipation, gastroesophageal reflux disease, diabetes, depression, or an eating disorder.
The age of the child can play a factor in the likelihood of misdiagnosis. Children under 10 often don't have the verbal skills necessary to accurately describe what they are feeling. They may know that they don't feel well but be unable to explain their precise symptoms. This means, the doctor is forced to rely on his medical training and the observations of the child's parents or caregivers.
What Is the Effect of a Misdiagnosis?
Misdiagnosis of pediatric cancer is concerning because cancer in children is more easily treated when it is caught early. A delay of a few weeks may not make a significant difference, but a delay of several months could limit a child's treatment options.
Limited treatment options could affect a child's odds of survival or lead to the necessity of treatments that are associated with significant side effects. For example, radiation in the pelvis, abdomen, or spine can affect a child's fertility and production of sex hormones.
Why Should I File a Claim for Malpractice?
Since children are not able to initiate legal action, you must file a claim for medical malpractice on your child's behalf. The financial cost of treating a pediatric cancer patient is substantial, but a malpractice settlement can alleviate this burden. Your claim can seek compensation for:
- Previous medical expenses related to the malpractice
- Cost of your child's future medical needs
- Cost of hiring a home health aide
- Cost of applicable accessibility modifications necessary to your home such as a ramp for a child in a wheelchair
- Loss of future earning potential, if your child is permanently disabled due to cancer treatment
- Loss of your income, if you are no longer able to work due to being a full-time caregiver to your child
- Pain and suffering experienced by your child
- Loss of your ability to enjoy your child's companionship
The experienced medical malpractice legal team at Neblett, Beard & Arsenault can establish liability, document damages, and negotiate with the hospital or care provider's insurance company on your behalf. Our attorneys are committed to protecting the legal rights of your child throughout the settlement process. Contact us online or call our office directly at 318.541.8188 to schedule a free, no-obligation initial case review.