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Diagnosis with cancer is a traumatic and life-changing experience for both the patient and for their loved ones. However, as traumatic as a diagnosis may be, the consequences of a delayed non-Hodgkin diagnosis can be even worse. Early diagnosis of cancer can often mean the difference between survival and death; it can also mean the difference between debilitating, late-stage treatments and comparatively less severe treatments available with an early diagnosis.
If you are wondering what to do if your cancer diagnosis was delayed, our nationwide medical malpractice lawyers are here to help. Zinda Law personal injury lawyers can evaluate your case and help you strategize a path toward maximum compensation. If you or a loved one has suffered due to a delayed non-Hodgkin diagnosis, call Zinda Law Group at (800) 863-5312 for a 100% free consultation with an experienced medical malpractice attorney today.
Non-Hodgkin Lymphoma Statistics
Though we rely on medical practitioners for their expertise, diagnostic error is not uncommon. According to an oft-cited study by CRICO Strategies, the risk management arm of the Harvard Medical Institutions and a national research leader in medical professional liability, cancer ranks particularly highly among misdiagnosed illnesses. The extensive study sampled 124,000 medical malpractice cases from 2007–2016 and concluded that 21% of these cases were characterized by diagnostic error; of those, 30% involved cancer.
According to the American Cancer Society, the death rate for lymphoma has been declining for over a decade: from 2009 to 2018, the death rate for non-Hodgkin lymphoma decreased by about 2% per year. However, the numbers remain high; in 2021 alone, there will be an estimated 90,390 new lymphoma diagnoses and 21,680 lymphoma deaths in the United States. Of these, 8,830 cases and 960 deaths are expected to be from Hodgkin lymphoma; by contrast, the numbers are much higher for non-Hodgkin lymphoma, which is expected to account for 81,560 diagnoses and 20,720 deaths.
Read more: American Cancer Society, Cancer Facts & Figures 2021
delayed non-Hodgkin FAQs
Needless to say, receiving a cancer diagnosis, especially at a late stage, leaves many patients feeling lost, vulnerable, and fearful. As with many complicated illnesses, there are often more questions than answers. Some basic questions are answered below.
What Is the Difference Between Hodgkin and Non-Hodgkin Lymphoma?
Lymphoma, in general, refers to a group of malignancies affecting the lymphocytes, a type of white blood cell; these cells are an important component of the lymphatic system. Among other important functions, the lymphatic system is responsible for protecting the body from various illness-causing invaders. The lymphatic system is extensive throughout the body, and lymphomas can start anywhere where lymph tissue is present, including the:
- Lymph nodes
- Bone marrow
- Adenoids and tonsils
- Digestive tract
Lymphoma is broadly categorized into Hodgkin (which is less common) and non-Hodgkin. Many symptoms of these two sicknesses overlap; however, one key difference between the two is the presence or absence of “Reed-Sternberg cells.” Reed-Sternberg cells are large, abnormal lymphocytes that may contain more than one nucleus; they are found in people with Hodgkin lymphoma. Due to their large and conspicuous size, their presence is used to diagnose that disease.
Lymphoma absent Reed-Sternberg cells is categorized as non-Hodgkin. Non-Hodgkin lymphoma can be further categorized into aggressive and indolent, which are themselves further distinguishable into many sub-types.
Hodgkin lymphoma is characterized by its pathological predictability relative to non-Hodgkin; that is, this lymphoma tends to start at the lymph nodes in the neck, chest, and arms; it then tends to progress systematically to other areas of lymph node concentration. By contrast, non-Hodgkin lymphoma, though it may also arise at the lymph nodes, may also manifest in other parts of the body and spread throughout from there. This makes it more difficult to detect, and a delayed non-Hodgkin diagnosis often comes only once the disease has reached an advanced stage.
Finally, one important distinguishing characteristic of Hodgkin and non-Hodgkin lymphomas are their correlations with age. Non-Hodgkin lymphoma is most commonly diagnosed in people around 60-years-old. By contrast, Hodgkin is most commonly diagnosed in young adults between the ages of 15–24 and in people over the age of 60.
What Are the Symptoms of Non-Hodgkin Lymphoma?
Unfortunately, the symptoms of non-Hodgkin lymphoma can be very non-specific and frequently overlap with those of other, less malignant illnesses. Often, these symptoms do not manifest or become readily apparent until the cancer has become advanced.
Among the most common and outwardly perceptible symptoms is swelling of the lymph nodes. Humans have many lymph nodes—several hundred—located throughout the body; concentrations occur in the underarms, groin, neck, chest, and abdomen. Though they are normally imperceptible, lymph nodes when swollen might appear as non-painful bumps under the skin.
Swollen lymph nodes might simply indicate that your body is fighting off an infection. They could also be a sign of something more serious, like cancer, and should be evaluated by a doctor.
Unfortunately, many symptoms or manifestations of lymphoma are not perceptible outside of the body; for example, not all lymph nodes are near the surface of the body. Therefore, if nodes deeper within the body swell, they may not be detectable by the doctor or patient without tests and equipment. Similarly, because of its potential to manifest throughout the body, other symptoms of non-Hodgkin lymphoma are also dependent on the location of the precise cancer.
These symptoms may include:
- Night sweats (often soaking the sheets) and/or chills
- Persistent fatigue, lethargy, weakness
- Loss of appetite, nausea, vomiting
- Weight loss
- Abdominal pain or swelling
- Feeling full after only a small amount of food
- Skin rash or itchy skin
- Coughing or shortness of breath
- Difficulty moving parts of the body
- Pain in the chest, abdomen, or bones
- Severe or frequent infections
- Easy bruising or bleeding
Again, these symptoms often correlate with the location of the cancer in the body. For example, pain or swelling in the abdomen may indicate that the cancer is present in that region. Similarly, fatigue paired with headaches may indicate that cancer is present in the brain.
How Do I Know If I Have Delayed Non-Hodgkin Diagnosis?
There are a number of ways of diagnosing lymphoma, often used in combination. These may include physical exams, blood and urine tests, imaging tests, lymph node tests, bone marrow tests, and lumbar punctures (spinal taps). However, because symptoms of non-Hodgkin lymphoma are diverse and may overlap with other illnesses, it can be difficult for a patient to detect a delayed non-Hodgkin diagnosis for themselves.
Of course, if the symptoms that led you to the doctor persist or worsen after the prescribed treatment, you may have been misdiagnosed. Bear in mind, though a failure to diagnose may result in the illness being left to worsen and spread, a false positive diagnosis can lead to the application of unnecessary and debilitating treatment. This may even exacerbate the actual underlying cause of your sickness.
Though a non-expert will struggle to detect a misdiagnosis with technical certainty, it is important that you take an active role in your own wellbeing. Ultimately, though you do not have the specialized knowledge of a doctor, you know your body better than anyone else. Even the most well-trained doctor may make a mistake; therefore, if you have serious doubts about a diagnosis (or lack thereof), do not be afraid to seek a second opinion.
Legal Route to compensation
A delayed non-Hodgkin diagnosis can lead to dangerous consequences; once present in the body, the sickness can spread quickly and become extremely difficult to treat. If a has caused you a non-Hodgkin injury or a loved one’s non-Hodgkin death, you may have a viable medical malpractice claim and should seek advice from a personal injury attorney as soon as possible. If you are wondering what to do if your cancer diagnosis was delayed, do not hesitate to consult with a medical injury lawyer as soon as possible.
These case types are particularly difficult for plaintiffs. Thankfully, the medical malpractice attorneys at Zinda Law Group have the knowledge and experience to evaluate your case and help you seek maximum compensation.
Medical negligence is the most common cause of action brought in medical malpractice cases. It requires proving four elements, which are as follows:
- the defendant owed a duty of care to the plaintiff;
- the defendant breached that duty of care;
- the plaintiff sustained injuries; and
- the defendant’s breach was the cause of the injury.
Proving the first element—that there existed a duty of care—is often difficult in medical malpractice cases and generally requires a knowledgeable medical malpractice attorney to argue this element strategically and effectively. This is so because proving that a medical provider breached a “duty of care” requires proving that they did not diagnose the patient according to the normal “standard of care” in the doctor’s particular area of specialty.
However, establishing the standard of care can be difficult for two reasons. Firstly, diagnostics can be a very complex area of medicine, and non-experts will struggle to define the standard of care simply because they lack the expertise; plaintiffs generally must hire medical experts to fill this gap in knowledge, which can become prohibitively expensive. Secondly, diagnostics is also an imprecise area of medicine—so much so that even if a doctor followed the standard of care, they may still get their diagnosis wrong.
The personal injury attorneys at Zinda Law Group can help you gather and evaluate the facts of your case, navigate the law, and create a litigation strategy. Though difficult, proving your doctor’s negligence may be accomplished if you have the right legal counsel.
Another important element in any personal injury case is the concept of damages, which simply refers to the kinds of compensation available in each case. There are three kinds:
- Economic damages meant to compensate the victim for their losses that are reducible to a monetary amount (for example, the cost of treating your injury);
- Non-economic damages meant to compensate for losses that are not reducible in this way (for example, your pain and suffering); and
- Punitive damages, which though awarded infrequently, are designed not to compensate the victim but to punish the defendant.
Each state has specific laws governing damages, and many states have created statutory caps on damages governing medical malpractice cases. These laws and the associated exceptions can be quite specific, and it is best to have a personal injury lawyer evaluate how they apply to your case. The nationwide personal injury attorneys at Zinda Law Group can help you navigate the laws in your state.
Statute of Limitations
Similarly, each state has a statute of limitations governing personal injury cases, including medical malpractice. The statute of limitations in your state sets a time limit from the date of the incident leading to your injury, after which you can no longer bring your case. This limit is normally set around 2–3 years after the incident.
Statutes of limitations are a simple but important element in litigation because once the time limit passes, they act as a nearly impenetrable barrier to your case. In medical malpractice cases, the statute of limitations is particularly critical because time may run out before you discover the delayed diagnosis and have the opportunity to bring your case to a medical injury lawyer. Even so, it is important to consult with a personal injury attorney to evaluate any potential exceptions which may be applicable to your case.
Zinda Law Group's Medical Malpractice Lawyers Can Help
A cancer diagnosis can be one of the most devastating experiences in one’s life. Even more so when we discover that, but for a diagnostic lapse, the delayed cancer injury could have been treated earlier on. These kinds of delays or mistakes can cost patients their lives and may rise to the level of medical malpractice.
Notwithstanding the impact on our lives, the law presents some unique difficulties for medical malpractice plaintiffs. The likelihood of success is very low without the help of a medical malpractice attorney.
If you are wondering what to do if your cancer diagnosis was delayed, call Zinda Law Group at (800) 863-5312 for a 100% free case evaluation with our medical malpractice lawyers. Tell us about your case, and we will tell you how we can help. You pay nothing unless we win your case. That is our No Win, No Fee Guarantee.
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