Misdiagnosis - Miami Medical Malpractice Lawyer: Sean M. Cleary

If you or a loved one has received a misdiagnosis, we will investigate the case and help you get financial compensation.

How Can We Help After a Misdiagnosis?

We review the medical information prior and after your misdiagnosis and use medical experts to testify as to why a timely diagnosis could have improved your prognosis.

Sean M. Cleary

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More than one out of every five referral patients may be incorrectly diagnosed, shows a study of patients seeking second opinions from the Mayo Clinic. Diagnostic errors contribute to about 10% of patient deaths and 6% to 17% of adverse events in hospitals, the researchers wrote. A study by the National Academies of Sciences noted that an estimated 12 million Americans, or about 5%, who seek outpatient care experience diagnostic errors. Cancer misdiagnosis rates may be as high as 28%, shows the journal BMJ Quality and Safety. This data is troubling not only because of the safety risks for these patients but also because of the patients who are not being referred at all.


The urologist examined a patient complaining of blood in his urine and decided to perform a cystoscopy, to examine the interior of the bladder and ureter. The urologist found a tumor in the bladder, burned it, but failed to obtain muscle in the biopsies. Two years later, after seeing a large bladder tumor during a repeat cystoscopy, the urologist finally took a biopsy specimen that contained muscle. This biopsy revealed that the patient’s bladder cancer had in fact invaded the muscle wall and metastasized. As a result, the patient had to have his bladder removed. Tragically, however, by the time he filed suit, it was found that his bladder cancer had already spread through the bladder prior to its removal, into his lymph nodes, metastasized into bone cancer, and caused the patient's death.

A teenage boy entering puberty saw his pediatrician for excessive thirst, wakeful nights, headache, vomiting, throat and abdominal pain, the retarded maturity of his genitals, and excessive weight gain without corresponding growth in height. The pediatrician failed to perform an indicated fasting blood sugar test, made no referral, and ignored clearly abnormal levels of Sodium, Chloride, Cholesterol, and LDH. After several frustrating visits to the pediatrician, the teen’s mother self-referred to a pediatric gastroenterologist who ruled out abdominal/gastric causes and initiated testing that confirmed brain cancer. Radiation resolved the tumor but left the teen with retarded growth, male breasts, and dependent upon growth hormones for life.

A woman only 34-years old complained to her obstetrician of two left breast lumps and left axilla pain. He examined her left breast and confirmed that lumps were present, but reassured her that she was too young for breast cancer. The obstetrician examined her on different occasions over the next four months noting the history of left breast lumps and pain but negligently and carelessly failed to order diagnostic studies, tests or consultations to exclude the possibility of breast cancer. Approximately one and a half years later, the patient contacted her family physician about her lumps, and he immediately and promptly referred her to a different obstetrician. For the next four months, the patient underwent chemotherapy cancer treatment and eventually underwent a double radical mastectomy with node dissection, which confirmed the presence of breast cancer in multiple locations as well as the metastatic disease to the lymph nodes. Unfortunately, the cancer was stage 4 when it was diagnosed and will probably recur.

Fibroadenoma is a common breast condition in women under age 30. It's a tumor made up of glandular breast tissue presenting as a lump directly underneath the skin.

Once a lump is discovered, a doctor will order further diagnostic tests to determine if it is benign or malignant. Fibroadenomas are almost always benign but there might be a slight possibility of cancer, which is why a thorough examination is required. Women who are diagnosed with fibroadenoma are more at risk of breast cancer as they age.

Proper diagnosis is critical. Lumps may be misdiagnosed as a fibrocystic condition or an abscess. If a lump is mistaken for cancer and drastic treatment measures are taken, there could be harm done to the patient as she is likely to undergo unnecessary treatments or medications. If the growth is actually cancerous and is diagnosed as benign, the patient’s life may be threatened by a lack of action.

A 78-year-old diabetic woman was misdiagnosed with ovarian cancer and treated with neoadjuvant chemotherapy followed by radical hysterectomy and adjuvant radiotherapy. During laparotomy after chemotherapy, the misdiagnosis was discovered because she had a pelvic mass in the upper part of the cervix that was fixed to the bladder. It was highly suspicious for cervical cancer, and frozen section evaluation confirmed that. Therefore, radical hysterectomy was done, and she received several courses of radiotherapy after surgery.

Cervical polyps are tumors of the uterine cervix. These polyps are usually benign growths; however, there are situations in which polyps are a symptom of cervical cancer.

Misdiagnosis of cervical polyps can occur in a variety of situations such as polyps being missed entirely for lengthy periods of time or being mistaken for other diseases. Often, polyps are misdiagnosed as being:

  • Ovarian cancer
  • Gonorrhea
  • Non-gonococcal urethritis
  • Uterine cancer

A proper diagnosis often results in the doctor removing the polyp, which is normally an outpatient procedure and testing it for cancer cells. Serious cases of cervical cancer may require serious treatments such as chemotherapy or hysterectomy. Misdiagnosis is a serious problem as considering the polyps benign can lead to cancer that is left untreated for too long. Conversely, cancer treatment for a benign polyp may lead to serious problems for the patient’s health.

A patient went to see a doctor about rectal bleeding issues that had been going on for six months. The doctor misdiagnosed the case, had the patient treated for hemorrhoids, and never ordered a colonoscopy. Just two years later, the patient died from advanced colon cancer that had spread to his lungs.

A doctor’s failure to follow up on his own reports led to a late diagnosis of advanced stage liver cancer. The patient had several visits between 2007 when the malignancy was first spotted and 2011 and underwent several CT scans before receiving the diagnosis. The oncologist wrote that he intended to order another scan in, at most, a year, but failed to do so despite frequent return visits by the patient over the course of the ensuing three years. In 2011, the patient underwent a CT scan at another facility while being seen for a different medical condition, at which time, the liver tumor had grown enormously and was then diagnosed as advanced-stage liver cancer. The patient died from liver cancer a year after the diagnosis.

Our client complained of pain in the chest and went to see a doctor who diagnosed the symptoms as a common cold, didn’t do the x-rays and the necessary radiologic studies. Later, our client returned to the hospital not only with lung cancer but also with lymphatic cancer because cancer spreads from one area to other parts of the body. Diagnosing cancer early is critically important because if you don’t start the treatment regimen early, cancer spreads to different parts of the body quickly.

A 50+-year-old woman found a golf-ball-sized lump on her torso. She contacted her family doctor, went to see him the next day, and he sent her to a surgeon who removed it that afternoon. Two weeks later, the surgeon called her with her lab results and told her she has a very rare cancer, a lymphoma. The oncologist was very discouraging, he sent her for blood work and a CT scan, both of which came back negative for any abnormalities. No sign of lymphoma. But he insisted that those were symptoms of lymphoma, and she needed to think about chemotherapy. She made an appointment with another oncologist, learned that the rare lymphoma had fewer than 100 cases reported in the previous decade and was told that even if she did have SPTCL, it would be better treated with radiation than chemo. After more tests, she was given the confirmation that, in fact, she had no cancer, the corrected diagnosis was for inflammation of fat cells.

A man in his 60s experienced a history of urinary difficulties. To rule out prostate cancer, the urologist performed a biopsy of the prostate gland and submitted the pathology materials to a medical corporation. A pathologist, employed by the medical corporation, examined the prostate tissue and prepared a pathology report denying the presence of cancer cells. Approximately two years later, the medical corporation became suspicious of the pathologist’s prostate slide results and had the slides re-read. It was not until a full two years later that the medical corporation advised the urologist that the prostate tissue biopsied two years earlier had been misread and misdiagnosed by their pathologist. Following this notice, the patient's prostate was again biopsied. Prostate cancer was confirmed and had progressed during the two-year delay caused by the misdiagnosis. After that, the patient underwent a radical excision of his prostate gland causing a dramatic change in his lifestyle and marriage.

Our client went to see a doctor with symptoms of pain and discomfort in a testicle with no swelling, who, unfortunately, misdiagnosed the condition. As a consequence of the delay in diagnosis, many months later, the patient's testicles had to be removed.


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