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Advances in medical research and technology mean that brain cancer is no longer a death sentence. When it is diagnosed early enough, and treatment is properly managed, even malignant brain tumors and other forms of brain cancer are curable by surgery, radiation therapy and/or chemotherapy.
The problem is that the early signs and symptoms of brain cancer are often ignored by doctors or mistakenly attributed to something else because a thorough and proper screening was not completed.
If your long-term prognosis and treatment options have been made significantly worse as the result of a needlessly delayed diagnosis of brain cancer, you may be able to recover compensation.
To learn more about your rights or how our lawyers can help you, contact Powers & Santola, LLP, today.
What is Brain Cancer?
Cancer of the brain usually manifests as a brain tumor. This is a mass or growth of abnormal cells. Brain tumors can be benign, with no cancer cells. However, they may be malignant, meaning they are made up of cancer cells that grow quickly.
A primary brain tumor is cancer that originates in the brain. Cancer that begins in another part of the body and spreads to the brain is known as a secondary, or metastatic, brain tumor.
According to the American Brain Tumor Association, brain tumors are the:
- Second-leading cause of cancer-related deaths in children under age 20
- Second-leading cause of cancer-related deaths in males ages 20-39
- Fifth-leading cause of cancer-related deaths in females ages 20-39.
The Central Brain Tumor Registry of the United States reported in 2013 that an estimated 66,240 new cases of primary malignant and non-malignant brain and central nervous system tumors were expected to be diagnosed in the U.S. in 2014.
How is Brain Cancer Diagnosed?
A person with a brain tumor is likely to experience headaches that grow more severe and frequent. They may be accompanied by nausea and vomiting.
Since your brain controls much of the body, cancer of the brain will begin to affect bodily functions. What is harmed will depend on the tumor’s location, size and rate of growth. Symptoms of brain cancer may include problems with:
- Balance and coordination
- Sensation or movement in an arm or a leg.
A person with brain cancer may exhibit confusion or changes in personality or behavior. The person may suffer seizures.
A doctor should ask about the extent of these problems and follow up by conducting a neurologic exam and tests like an MRI or CT scan and a biopsy.
A biopsy is a tissue sample, which would be taken from a tumor to determine whether it is cancerous or benign. It may be obtained during an operation to remove the brain tumor. A biopsy can be performed using a needle that is inserted through a hole drilled into your skull.
Once brain cancer is diagnosed, the patient may be treated with surgery, radiation therapy, chemotherapy or, in many cases, a combination of treatments. Targeted drug therapy, in which a medication attacks certain types of cancerous cells, may be prescribed. Bevacizumab (Avastin), for example, is drug used to treat a type of brain cancer called glioblastoma.
Why Does a Missed or Delayed Diagnosis of Brain Cancer Occur?
Symptoms of brain cancer are different among various patients and depend on the cancer’s location in the brain as well as the stage of brain cancer the patient is experiencing when a doctor sees him or her. There may not be any symptoms in very early brain cancer.
Another problem is that some symptoms of brain cancer are similar to symptoms of other diseases or conditions such as a migraine headache, stroke, epilepsy, seizure disorder, encephalitis, epidural (spinal) abscess, transient ischemic attack or traumatic brain injury (TBI).
A British study of delayed cancer diagnoses found that the most common reason for a delayed diagnosis was insufficient examination by the medical practitioner. Other factors found included:
- Symptom misattribution
- Comorbidity (simultaneous presence of two chronic diseases or conditions in a patient)
- Patient characteristics (not seeing a doctor or not cooperating).
Sometimes, it is the hospital / medical center itself that causes a delayed diagnosis. The British study cited time lost due to:
- Waiting times for tests
- Waiting times for non-urgent referrals
- Administrative delays for follow up to tests.
What are the Consequences of a Missed or Delayed Diagnosis of Brain Cancer?
A delayed diagnosis of brain cancer, of course, means a delay in treatment of the cancer. Many brain cancers can be treated and cured if attacked soon enough. A delay may result in an unnecessary death.
The five-year relative survival rate following diagnosis of a primary malignant brain is 33.8 percent, according to the Central Brain Tumor Registry of the United States. The five-year survival rate refers to the percentage of people who live at least five years after being diagnosed. Many live longer.
How quickly a specific brain cancer spreads depends on its type and location. Survival rates for patients with brain tumors can vary widely by age, with younger people tending to have having better outlooks than older people.
But one fact is not in dispute: The odds of survival increase the sooner that brain cancer is diagnosed and treated.
Get Help from a Delayed Cancer Diagnosis Attorney
If you believe your or your loved one’s brain cancer was not diagnosed in a timely manner, and a delayed diagnosis caused significant harm, you may be able to obtain compensation for your loss.
Powers & Santola, LLP, pursues brain cancer misdiagnosis claims on behalf of people in New York State and across the country. Call us from anywhere in the U.S. or reach us online to schedule a free legal consultation today.
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