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Failure to Diagnose Oral Cancer

Attorneys Representing Clients in Baltimore

Oral cancers are relatively uncommon, accounting for a small percentage of overall cancer diagnoses per year. While oral cancer is treatable in the early stages, a patient’s prognosis worsens significantly when cancer is not diagnosed until it is in an advanced stage. Unfortunately, however, many health care providers fail to observe the signs of oral cancer in their patients, which often leads to missed or delayed diagnosis. In many instances, the failure to diagnose oral cancer constitutes medical malpractice, and patients harmed by their doctor’s or dentist’s negligent care have the right to seek compensation. If you suffered damages due to an undiagnosed oral cancer, you should meet with a lawyer as soon as possible to discuss your rights. The knowledgeable Baltimore medical malpractice attorneys of Arfaa Law Group can advise you of your potential claims and gather the evidence needed to help you seek a just result.

Signs and Symptoms of Oral Cancer

Oral cancers include those affecting the tongue, mouth, lips, and tonsils. They can be caused by a variety of factors, including tobacco use, sun exposure, human papillomavirus, and advanced age. Currently, there are no standard tests that screen for oral cancer. Instead, doctors and dentists who regularly examine their patient’s mouths are expected to identify any signs of cancer and, if necessary, take the measures needed to obtain accurate diagnoses. Indicators of oral cancer include sores, lesions, tissue that appears white or inflamed, and painful areas. While such symptoms may have other causes, if they are present, it is critical to rule out a cancer diagnosis. Thus, if a health care provider observes such issues, he or she may need to direct the patient to undergo further evaluation and tests, including a biopsy.

Recovering Damages for the Failure to Diagnose Oral Cancer

Under Maryland law, health care providers are expected to provide competent care, and if they do not, they can be found liable for medical malpractice. Notably, the phrase health care providers is not limited to doctors but includes dentists, nurses, and other practitioners as well.

Generally, a plaintiff seeking damages for inadequate health care will assert a negligence claim against the defendant. In the context of medical malpractice, a plaintiff alleging negligence must first establish that the defendant had a duty to comply with the standard of care, which is the treatment that a reasonable professional working in the same specialty as the defendant would provide in a similar situation. The plaintiff then has to establish that the defendant breached the applicable standard. For example, if the standard requires a dentist who observes lesions in a patient’s mouth refer the patient to an oral surgeon and the defendant failed to do so, it may constitute a departure from the standard.

A plaintiff must not only demonstrate a breach of the standard but must also prove that the breach caused quantifiable harm. In other words, the plaintiff has to offer evidence showing that if the defendant had complied with the standard of care, the plaintiff would not have suffered losses and that the defendant’s acts or omissions were a significant factor in bringing about the plaintiff’s harm. Typically, such evidence will be in the form of testimony from a medical expert with experience practicing in the same area as the defendant. The expert will likely be called upon to explain the relevant standard, the manner in which the defendant deviated from the standard, and to link the defendant’s acts and the plaintiff’s harm. A plaintiff that adequately demonstrates a defendant’s liability may be awarded compensation for the cost of necessary medical treatment, lost wages, and damages for the suffering and pain caused by the defendant’s behavior.

Speak to an Experienced Attorney in Baltimore

Although oral cancers are uncommon, doctors and dentists are expected to identify signs that indicate a patient may have cancer and perform the tests needed to obtain a prompt and accurate diagnosis. If you sustained losses due to a health care provider’s failure to diagnose oral cancer, you might be owed damages, and you should speak to a lawyer. The experienced attorneys of Arfaa Law Group can assess the circumstances surrounding your harm and develop a strategy to help you to pursue any compensation recoverable under the law. We regularly represent injured parties in Baltimore, where our office is located. You can contact us through our online form or at (410) 889-1850 to set up a meeting.