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Rare Cancer Can Result in Delayed Diagnoses

Posted on December 14, 2015 by Kelly Wolford
young woman with cancer

Rare neuroendocrine tumors are extremely serious. They must be diagnosed and treated early on in order to prevent more serious harm from occurring. However, far too often, neuroendocrine tumors are misdiagnosed, or a diagnosis is significantly delayed.

If this has happened to you, and you have suffered harm as a result, reach out to our experienced New York delayed diagnosis medical malpractice attorneys.

What Are Rare Neuroendocrine Tumors?

A tumor refers to an abnormal cell growth. A neuroendocrine tumor, then, is a type of abnormal cell growth that occurs within the body’s neuroendocrine cells, which are the cells that release hormones to the blood stream.

These types of tumors can be benign, or non-cancerous, or malignant, meaning they are cancerous. The latter type is, of course, the more dangerous.

Neuroendocrine tumors are extremely rare. According to an article published in The New York Times, this tumor type accounts for only about 3 percent of the 44,000 cases of pancreatic cancer each year.

There are a multiple types of neuroendocrine tumors. According to the Mayo Clinic, types of neuroendocrine tumors include:

  • Carcinoid tumors of the lung
  • Pancreatic neuroendocrine tumors
  • Adrenal cancers
  • Small cell carcinoma
  • Large cell carcinoid tumors
  • Thyroid cancers
  • Merkel cell carcinoma.

Diagnosing Rare Neuroendocrine Tumors

One of the biggest problems with neuroendocrine tumors is that they can be difficult to diagnosis.

According to Rodney F. Pommier, MD, who was interviewed by OncLive, 96.5 percent of patients in a study who were suffering from a neuroendocrine tumor did not receive a diagnosis until an average of 6.5 years after presentation of initial symptoms, and diagnosis took 20 years in some cases. Misdiagnosis is another large problem. In the cases above, the patients received, on average, a total of 35 different diagnoses.

The Importance of Early Diagnosis of Neuroendocrine Tumors

Diagnosing neuroendocrine tumors early on is extremely important, and a delayed or misdiagnosis can be deadly for an affected patient.

Dr. Edward M. Wolin, the co-director of the carcinoid and neuroendocrine tumor program at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles, is quoted in The New York Times article cited above as saying that, “when they are first found on a scan,” speaking of patients with neuroendocrine tumors, “about 60 percent of the time it’s already metastasized to the liver.”

When neuroendocrine tumors are found, it is best to remove them in a timely manner, the doctor said. The fact that the tumor is small and has a good prognosis does not mean that it should be ignored.

When neuroendocrine tumors are not diagnosed and treated early on, they can spread and cause the patient harm that he or she would not have suffered otherwise.

Jerry Marcotte knows the risks of not diagnosing a neuroendocrine tumor first hand. Mr. Marcotte, now 61, suffered from an undiagnosed neuroendocrine tumor for years. Receiving multiple misdiagnoses from doctors, Mr. Marcotte even had his gallbladder removed at one point.

According to the Post Crescent article that reported on Mr. Marcotte, he suffered from the neuroendocrine tumor — which can be slow to grow — for at least 10 years before doctors discovered it. By the time it was finally diagnosed, the cancer had reached his liver.

Perhaps even more tragic is the fact that neuroendocrine tumors are not currently treatable using traditional cancer-fighting means such as chemotherapy. To treat the neuroendocrine tumor, Mr. Marcotte underwent an intensive surgery to have a large part of his small intestine removed as well as six inches of his large intestine.

While he still has the cancer, he receives an injection once per month that helps him manage the symptoms. The injection costs $17,000 each time.

His story is just one of many tragic examples of what can happen when there is no medical awareness of neuroendocrine cancer in a patient.

Medical Malpractice and Delayed Diagnosis

There is no doubt that neuroendocrine cancers can be hard to catch. That being said, when symptoms are present, and a doctor fails to order the right tests or perform the proper examinations, and the cancer is misdiagnosed as a result, the doctor may be liable for committing medical malpractice.

Medical malpractice occurs when a medical professional fails to treat a patient with the reasonable amount of care that a physician in the same circumstance would exercise.

Failing to diagnose rare endocrine tumors can have tragic effects, including increased levels of pain, loss of quality of life, high medical bills, health complications and even death.

While the advent of a new chemotherapy combination shows promise for treating patients with other treatment-resistant neuroendocrine tumors, according to the American Society of Clinical Oncology, neuroendocrine tumors cannot be treated if they are not discovered. It is too late sometimes, and the tumor has spread too much throughout the body.

Raising awareness about neuroendocrine cancer is extremely important, and may help to save lives in the future.

Do I Have a Case?

Suffering from a disease like neuroendocrine cancer that is undiagnosed is extremely challenging and exhausting both emotionally and physically. While we cannot help you reverse the course of your cancer, our medical malpractice lawyers can help you to determine whether or not you have a case. If so, we can explore what types of compensation you may be entitled to receive.

The statute of limitations for filing a medical malpractice case in Albany or Syracuse (as well as the rest of New York State) is two and half years from the date the malpractice occurred.

Contact an Albany Medical Malpractice Attorney Today

If you are the victim of a delayed diagnosis of a neuroendocrine tumor, and your tumor has advanced as a direct result of the lack of medical treatment, you may have a medical malpractice case. Our New York medical malpractice attorneys can help you to understand exactly what you need to know about taking legal action.

At Powers & Santola, LLP, our medical malpractice lawyers are committed to representing our clients to the best of our abilities, and we are passionate about defending your rights as a victim of medical malpractice. To meet with our attorneys for a free case consultation today, call our offices now or contact us online.