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Understanding Skin Cancer And Whether Medical Negligence Is To Blame For Delayed Treatment

On Behalf of | Dec 14, 2015 | Medical Malpractice

Did you know that skin cancer is the most common type of cancer in the
United States? And although doctors are aware just how common it is, sometimes
skin cancer goes undiagnosed or misdiagnosed due to medical negligence.

Understanding Skin Cancer

The main cause of skin cancer is the sun’s ultraviolet (UV) rays.
This is why any exposure to UV light that comes from the sun or tanning
beds can put people at risk for developing skin cancer. “About 86
percent of melanomas and 90 percent of nonmelanoma skin cancers are associated with
exposure to the sun’s ultraviolet (UV) rays,” said Perry Robins, M.D., president of the Skin Cancer Foundation.

There are many different types of skin cancer, such as melanoma, basal
cell carcinoma, and squamous cell carcinoma. About 3.3 million Americans
are diagnosed every year in this nation with basal cell cancers or squamous
cell skin cancers. According to
American Cancer Society, the number of people getting diagnosed with these skin cancers has increased
over the past few years. However, melanoma is the most dangerous and difficult
type of skin cancer to treat once it spreads; fortunately, it is not as
common as the other types; about 87,110 new melanomas are expected to
be diagnosed this year.

Skin Cancer Detection

Over the course of a few weeks or months, spots can develop on one’s
body or moles can change color or shape. However, many people don’t
inspect their bodies for changes in the skin—especially during the
winter months when it is cold and people stay bundled up. This is why
summertime is often a great time to remind everyone to inspect their bodies
for any concerns or changes to the skin. In fact, melanoma skin cancer
awareness month occurs every May, at the beginning of summer, to remind
people to check their bodies from head-to-toe—and not just during
the summer months, but every month.

While it’s a good idea to perform a skin self-examination every month,
it is just as important to see a doctor every year for a professional
skin examination. The good news is that the vast majority of skin cancers
are treatable if they are caught early. Generally, a dermatologist will
take a tissue sample through a biopsy in order to make an accurate diagnosis.
If the biopsy results come back positive, the cancerous growth will usually
be removed through surgery. If the cancer is non-melanoma, radiation and
chemotherapy may also be needed.

Skin Cancer Malpractice

Unfortunately, sometimes skin cancer goes undiagnosed or misdiagnosed by
doctors. Here are two common ways this occurs:

  • Primary care provider malpractice. Many insurance plans require that patients first see their primary care
    physician before being referred to a dermatologist. Some general practitioners
    may try to diagnose the skin condition without sending a patient to a
    dermatologist for a thorough exam. As a result, a primary care doctor
    may misdiagnose skin cancer as psoriasis, eczema, or another skin condition—leaving
    the skin cancer to spread. If a general practitioner fails to refer a
    patient to a dermatologist, it can be medical malpractice.
  • Dermatologist malpractice. Believe it or not, dermatologists make mistakes when it comes to diagnosing
    skin cancer. For instance, they may be in a rush and fail to properly
    diagnose a type of skin cancer. It’s even possible for a dermatologist
    to misread a biopsy report, and as a result the cancerous growth isn’t removed.

When Missed Skin Cancer Causes Harm

When skin cancer is not identified early, the patient won’t receive
the aggressive treatment that may be vital to his wellbeing. A delay in
treating skin cancer can cause significant injuries, disfigurement, or
even death. If you or a loved one has suffered physically, emotionally,
or financially as a result of a delay in treatment of skin cancer, you
may have a case for medical malpractice. Please contact us online or by
calling our office today and learn about your rights in a free, no-obligation