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Skin cancer can be melanoma or non-melanoma. Non-melanoma skin cancer can be either basal cell carcinoma or squamous cell carcinoma. Skin cancer predominantly occurs on areas of the skin that have been exposed to the sun. Skin cancer is the most common form of cancer diagnosed in the country. Each year in the United States, about 1 million men and women are diagnosed with skin cancer. Nearly 60,000 of those cases of skin cancer will be the melanoma form of skin cancer which accounts for a disproportionate number of skin cancer deaths.
The vast majority of skin cancers are treatable if caught at an early stage. Treatments for skin cancer include removal of the cancerous growth either by excision methods or through surgery. With non-melanoma forms of cancer, treatment can also include radiation and chemotherapy delivered either topically to the area or through the traditional form. Treatment for melanoma cancer may be treated with interferon but the use of radiation or chemotherapy is not usually able to cure the cancer and is for the purpose of delaying the growth or spread of the cancer.
Screening and Testing for Skin Cancer
All men and women should perform self-screening of their skin for any changes. Knowledge of your skin’s appearance and condition can help you recognize when there is a change that may signal a cancerous growth. Men and women at increased risk, such as those with a family history of skin cancer, fair skin or outdoor jobs with exposure to UV light, should begin this process at an earlier point in time.
A doctor has the responsibility to recommend testing for anyone who has symptoms which suggest the possibility of skin cancer. In addition, early self-screening or screening by a doctor allows cancer to be diagnosed at an early stage, before it has metastasized (spread to other organs or tissue elsewhere in the body). Less invasive methods of removing a cancerous growth are an option for patients who are diagnosed prior to the spread of cancer to other parts of the body.
Those patients who have had skin cancer are at risk for the cancer to reoccur. Patients should be vigilant and continue to self screen and regularly visit their doctor for further screening. Treatment for reoccurrences of skin cancer is less successful, so it is important for patients to be attentive and receive treatment from their doctor immediately if there is a suspicion that there is a reoccurrence of the cancer.
Symptoms of Skin Cancer
In some cases, skin cancer can be present in the absence of overt symptoms. That is why screening checks of the skin are used to find the cancer early, when it is easier to treat and/or cure. When symptoms do occur, they may include:
- Changes to existing moles
- A new growth on the skin, either a mole or a pale bump
- A raised red bump
- A scaly, irritated patch of skin with a reddish hue
- Bleeding of moles or raised areas on the skin
Medical Mistakes Can Delay Diagnosis of Skin Cancer
Here are some common medical mistakes and errors that can cause a preventable delay in diagnosing skin cancer:
- Failure to offer or recommend a biopsy or other tests when growths are removed
- Failure to obtain family history of skin cancer
- Failure to offer or recommend early skin cancer screening for men and women at increased risk
- Failure to refer a patient to a Dermatologist or an Oncologist in a timely manner
- Failure to properly diagnose the type of skin cancer
- Failing to identify and remove a possibly cancerous growth
- Failure to properly follow up on the results of a biopsy
- Mistakes in the pathological interpretation of tissue samples
- Failure to coordinate or communicate with other medical care providers
Injuries Caused by the Failure to Diagnose Skin Cancer
Early detection of skin cancer can be life saving, especially if the skin cancer is melanoma. Misdiagnosis or delayed treatment can create the need to surgically remove the growth and surrounding tissue. In addition, delay can mean more aggressive treatment, including the possibility of radical surgery, radiation and chemotherapy. Sometimes the delay is so great that premature death cannot be avoided. Types of harm caused by delayed damage of skin cancer include:
- Premature death
- Long-term or permanent disability
- Treatment which is more invasive, aggressive and painful
- Lost wages
- Significantly increased recovery time
- Treatment which is significantly more expensive
How We Can Help
No amount of money can make up for unnecessary or preventable death, or for the added pain of knowing that premature death would probably have been avoided had health care professionals acted properly. However, premature death creates a financial hardship for families, and the responsible party should bear that cost. In addition, delayed treatment of skin cancer creates additional health care costs, lost wages, and in some cases permanent disability.
If you or a loved one has been injured or lost their life due to what you suspect may have been a failure to diagnose skin cancer, you may be entitled to compensation including:
- Long-term disability
- Current and future medical bills
- Loss of enjoyment of life
- Long-term care expenses
- Current and future loss of wages
- Pain and suffering
- Burial expenses
- Loss of companionship
Learn more about frequently asked questions related skin cancer misdiagnosis.
Collectively, New Jersey medical malpractice lawyers Michael L. Weiss, Esq. and Robert E. Paarz, Esq. have presented over 10 medical malpractice cases relating to the failure to diagnose skin cancer to juries and have helped many families achieve substantial financial recoveries. They are committed to using their knowledge and experience to help any individual or family who has suffered a severe, permanent injury or death due to medical malpractice to obtain fair compensation.
If you believe you or a loved one may have experienced such an injury, please contact Weiss & Paarz, P.C., today.