Failure to Diagnose Prostate Cancer
By Robert F. Rich, Jr., Esq.
Approximately 288,300 men are diagnosed with prostate cancer each year in the United States. Proper screening and early diagnosis can save lives. Unfortunately, despite readily available and inexpensive screening tools, patients die from cancer that could have been detected and successfully treated early if they had been properly screened and diagnosed. [Clark, R.; Vesprini, D.; Narod, S.A. The Effect of Age on Prostate Cancer Survival. Cancers 2022, 14, 4149. https://doi.org/ 10.3390/cancers14174149]
Prostate cancer is the second most common cancer in men and the second leading cause of cancer death in men in the United States. Approximately 34,700 American men die from prostate cancer each year. Yet when caught early, prostate cancer is eminently treatable. While prostate cancer is relatively common, the good news is that more than 80% of all prostate cancers are detected when the cancer is confined to the prostate or the region around it (the capsule), and treatment success rates are high compared with many other types of cancer. The 5-year survival rate in the United States for men diagnosed with early-stage prostate cancer is greater than 99%. [Id.] In general, the earlier the cancer is caught and treated, the more likely the patient will remain disease-free. [Prostate Cancer Foundation]
Failure to Diagnose
An early diagnosis is imperative to successfully treat prostate cancer. When a medical professional delays diagnosis, misdiagnoses, or fails to diagnose or treat a patient’s cancer it can have devastating consequences.
Screening tests are used to find cancer before a person has any symptoms. Doctors should begin screening men for prostate cancer, even if the patient is in good health, because most types of prostate cancer are successfully treated when they are found early before showing any symptoms.
Common Screening for Prostate Cancer
Prostate cancer screening should begin around age 45 (40 if you are Black and/ or at high risk for prostate cancer). Screening is useful because it can help find cancer earlier in its development when it is often at an earlier stage. This increases the chance of successfully treating the cancer before it progresses too far, which in turn lowers the number of cancer related deaths.
The two most common prostate cancer screening tests are a Prostate-specific antigen (PSA) test which is a simple blood test, and the Digital rectal exam (DRE), but other biomarker tests, such as a 4K Score—a more sophisticated blood test, can be used for screening. Abnormal PSA or DRE results require further testing to determine if the patient has prostate cancer. For most men, a PSA of ≤ 4 is not a cause for concern. Values greater than 4 should lead to further evaluation, preferably by a urologist. Men with a PSA level between 4 and 10 (often called the “borderline range”) have about a 1 in 4 chance of having prostate cancer. If the PSA is more than 10, the chance of having prostate cancer is over 50%. [ Atan A, Güzel Ö. How should prostate specific antigen be interpreted? Turk J Urol. 2013 Sep;39(3):188-93.]
Although multiple tests can suggest prostate cancer, only a biopsy can make a certain diagnosis. A prostate biopsy procedure is performed by a urologist. The tissue is interpreted in the lab and reported as a Gleason Score. In general, Gleason scores at or below 6 have a very favorable prognosis. Cancers with a Gleason score of 7 or more usually means that the patient’s cancer is not curable, and treatment options are more limited.
Prostate Cancer & The Failure to Diagnose
Unfortunately, delayed diagnosis is very common with prostate cancer. Delayed diagnosis or failure to screen for prostate cancer could be a result of medical malpractice. Failure to properly screen patients, (failing to give PSA tests or DRE) can lead to a delayed or missed diagnosis. Other grave errors might include failure to address patient symptoms, order a biopsy, or follow up on test results.
Risk factors can increase a person’s chance of developing prostate cancer, but do not necessarily mean that a man will get the cancer. Factors that may raise a man’s risk of developing prostate cancer include age, race, lifestyle, family history, Hereditary Breast and Ovarian Cancer (HBOC) syndrome, other genetic changes, Agent Orange exposure, eating habits, and weight.
- The risk of prostate cancer increases with age, especially after age 50, with approximately 60% of prostate cancers being diagnosed in men age 65 and older.
- Black men are diagnosed with prostate cancer at a higher rate than men of other races.
- Familial prostate cancer makes up about 20% of all prostate cancers.
These are some of the factors that would indicate that a patient’s doctor should start screening earlier than the “average” risk individual.
Although there is currently no proven way to completely prevent prostate cancer, you can lower your personal risk. Some studies show that healthy eating can reduce the risk of developing prostate cancer later in life, but the best-known way to lower your risk of a prostate cancer related death is to start routine screenings early.
Contact The Firm for a Free Consultation & Evaluation
If you or a loved have suffered due to a misdiagnosis, missed diagnosis, or delayed diagnosis, you may be wondering if you have any legal recourse. No matter your situation, it is crucial to speak with an attorney specializing in medical malpractice to get advice in determining whether you have a case. Feel free to call today for a free consultation.
The Law Offices of Robert F. Rich, Jr., PLLC.
175 Main Street,
New Paltz, NY 12561