Failure to Diagnose Bladder Cancer

Data provided by the American Cancer Society predicts that bladder cancer, the uncontrolled growth of cancer cells in the bladder, will be diagnosed in approximately 83,370 people in the US in 2021, and that approximately 17,200 people will lose their lives to the disease. Approximately 90% of bladder cancer diagnoses occur in people older than 55; the condition is more prevalent in men than women, and is in fact the "fourth most common cancer in men," according to the ACS. Fortunately, approximately 50% of bladder cancers are detected before they spread beyond the bladder, when prognoses are more favorable for the patient. A misdiagnosis or delayed diagnosis of bladder cancer, however, can result in the delay of critical treatment until the cancer has spread, potentially resulting in less favorable outlooks for the patient.

What Causes Bladder Cancer?

While the causes of bladder cancer are currently unknown, researchers have identified some risk factors associated with the disease. According to the American Cancer Society, these include smoking cigarettes; exposure to industrial chemicals like aromatic amines; exposure to arsenic in drinking water; exposure to the diabetes medication pioglitazone; exposure to supplements containing aristolochic acid; and inadequate fluid intake.

Are There Bladder Cancer Screenings?

While experts don't currently recommend routine bladder cancer screenings for everyone, they do recommend a few tests for people at high risk of bladder cancer, whether because they've had it before, they have bladder defects, or they're exposed to chemicals associated with it, according to the American Cancer Society. Typically these tests will include urinalysis, which looks for blood in the urine; cytology, which detects cancer cells in the patient's urine; and tests for tumor markers in the urine.

What Are Symptoms of Bladder Cancer?

Unlike many other cancers, bladder cancer is known to present symptoms in its early stages, such as blood in the patient's urine. As the American Cancer Society notes, the blood may or may not change the urine's color, and it may not appear consistently. Other symptoms include aberrations in the patient's bladder routines, such as increased urination or difficulty urinating. Other symptoms include irritation or pain when the patient urinates, difficulties urinating, and an increased urge to urinate.

How Do Doctors Test for Bladder Cancer?

After taking the patient's medical and family history and conducting a physical examination, doctors will typically conduct several tests to look for evidence of bladder cancer. According to the American Cancer Society, they will generally check the patient's urine for blood, cancerous cells, precancerous cells, and tumor markers; they may also perform a urine culture to determine whether the patient's symptoms are caused by an infection rather than cancer. They will likely refer the patient to a urologist, who will perform a cytoscopy by inserting a camera into the urethra and bladder to look for abnormalities. If abnormalities are found, the urologist will likely take a biopsy of the tissue for testing.

How Do Doctors Fail to Diagnose Bladder Cancer?

Bladder cancer is distinct from many other cancers in that it often presents symptoms in its early stages. It’s also highly treatable when detected early—according to the American Cancer Society, its 5-year relative survival rate is 96% when detected in its earliest stage and 69% when detected in its second-earliest stage. Unfortunately, those numbers decline in the next two stages. Bladder cancer that’s spread to nearby tissue has a 5-year relative survival rate of 37%, and a 6% survival rate when it’s spread to distant tissue. This is why an early and accurate bladder cancer diagnosis is critical to effective treatment.

While bladder cancer does present symptoms in its early stages, many of these symptoms are shared with other conditions, like bacterial infections of the bladder or kidney, cystitis (inflammation of the bladder), prostate cancer, and kidney cancer. A doctor who fails to adequately rule out bladder cancer before diagnosing the patient with one of these conditions may cause the delay of critical treatment for the patient’s undiagnosed cancer. Misdiagnosis can happen in many ways: a doctor who doesn’t fully take the patient’s medical history may miss risk factors for bladder cancer; they may misinterpret test results, or fail to communicate test results to the patient. To demonstrate negligence on the doctor’s part, a victim of misdiagnosis or delayed diagnosis typically needs to prove they had a doctor-patient relationship with the practitioner; that the practitioner failed to uphold their duty of care to the patient; that this failure resulted in harm to the patient; and that this harm caused the patient to suffer damages.

If you or a loved one are the victim of negligent bladder cancer misdiagnosis, you may be entitled to recover compensation for medical bills, lost wages, and mental anguish and suffering. Medical malpractice cases can be highly complex, requiring both seasoned legal counsel and expert medical witnesses. The New York medical malpractice attorneys at the Law Offices of Thomas L. Gallivan have decades of experience holding medical practitioners accountable for their negligence, while ensuring the victims of malpractice receive the peace of mind they deserve. Please reach out to our lawyers today to schedule a free consultation.

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