According to the American Cancer Society (ACS), prostate cancer is the most common type of cancer diagnosed in men behind skin cancer. In fact, the ACS estimates that almost 240,000 new cases will be diagnosed in 2006 and almost 30,000 men will die from the disease during the same time period. Although one in six men are expected to get prostate cancer during their lifetimes, only about 3% of all diagnosed cases are fatal. The high survival rate is due in part to advanced testing techniques for early detection, and can also be attributed to a the high success rate of various treatment options.
Testing for Prostate Cancer
One of the ways that physicians can test for prostate cancer is to determine the amount of prostate-specific antigen (PSA) in your blood. Additionally, digital rectal exams can be used to identify any bumps or hard places inside the prostate. The ACS recommends that PSA blood tests and digital rectal exams (DRE) take place yearly for men 50 and over. They also recommend that patients who have a family history of prostate cancer or exhibit symptoms related to the disease begin testing as early as age 40.
Symptoms of Prostate Cancer
There are several possible symptoms that can be associated with prostate cancer. Most of the symptoms develop when the prostate becomes enlarged and puts pressure on nearby organs such as the bladder. If you have experienced any of the following, you should contact your physician immediately for testing:
- Frequent or difficult urination
- Weak flow, pain or burning during urination
- Blood in the urine or semen
- Pain during ejaculation, or difficulty keeping an erection
- Weakness or numbness in the legs or feet
- Unexplained pain in the back, hips, pelvis, ribs and other bones
Upon hearing these symptoms, your physician should order a PSA blood test and digital rectal exam to investigate whether prostate cancer is the cause. If abnormal findings come back from those tests, it is the physician’s responsibility to perform a transrectal ultrasound or biopsy to conclusively diagnose prostate cancer, or rule it out.
Prostate Cancer and Medical Malpractice
When a physician fails to order yearly tests for prostate cancer in male patients over 50, or fails to diagnose and investigate the common symptoms appropriately, a medical malpractice suit may be applicable if the patient is later diagnosed with an advanced form of prostate cancer. The most common reasons for malpractice suits related to prostate cancer include a physician’s failure to:
- Perform yearly PSA or DRE testing
- Perform testing when patient complains of prostate cancer related symptoms
- Carefully screen patients who have a family history of prostate cancer
- Identify a cancerous mass during DRE’s and other rectal exams
- Quickly perform biopsies or transrectal ultrasounds when test results are abnormal
If you are concerned that you or a family member is a victim of medical malpractice due to a failed diagnosis for prostate cancer, you should contact a qualified attorney immediately. There are a number of attorneys who specialize in ‘failure to diagnose’ medical malpractice suits and they generally do not charge a fee unless their cases are won or settled out of court. An experienced attorney in this field can discuss the details of your case with you and tell you if there is enough evidence to pursue a lawsuit.
If there is enough evidence to prove that your doctor acted negligently, you are eligible to sue for damages in the form of current and future lost wages, current and future medical bills and pain and suffering. These cases are historically difficult to win, however. This is due to the difficulty prosecution attorneys often experience when trying to secure medical records and details associated with the case, as well as difficulties in finding witnesses who will testify against the defendant. In addition to those roadblocks, hospitals can usually hire the best defense attorneys available to represent them. Regardless, several medical malpractice suits have been won or settled out of court in the past.