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How is cancer diagnosed?

Cancer diagnoses often come after several appointments, lab tests and other exams. Some New Mexico residents facing a battle with cancer may suspect negligence on the part of one of their doctors, particularly if they are struggling with an advanced or end-stage case.

Patients often present cancer warning signs to their doctors by complaining of pain, coughing or other symptoms, or they may schedule a doctor visit after finding lumps in breast tissue or in other areas of their bodies. Routine visits such as well-woman exams may also alert doctors to the presence of cancer warning signs.

At this point, a doctor may order a test to determine if a tumor is present or if a tumor detected by a physical exam is malignant. The American Cancer Society says that most cancer diagnoses occur after a specialist has examined a tissue or cell sample like those obtained from a biopsy under a microscope. Lab tests of tissue samples may also help doctors determine whether a patient has cancer.

However, the doctor may decide that a patient's symptoms, abnormal exam results or other issues may be better explained by another condition. Many doctors fail to follow up with patients to ensure their diagnosis was correct, or they may dismiss pain or other symptoms as temporary or as the result of an existing condition and decline to order any tests at all. As a result, patients' health may continue to worsen as undetected tumors spread to other organs.

Some patients may feel that they may be the victims of a delayed diagnosis and that they may not have needed invasive, exhausting and costly treatments had their diagnoses come in time to prevent their conditions from escalating. While the above information provides possible insight into where along the line of diagnosis an error might occur, it is not to be construed as legal advice. If you believe your condition or a loved one's condition was worsened because of a misdiagnosis, your case is unique. A medical malpractice attorney could evaluate the facts of your case and direct you on how to proceed to possibly secure compensation for your losses.

Source: American Cancer Society, "How is cancer diagnosed?", March 07, 2013

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