Last Updated on April 10, 2024

Can I Sue If I've Been Diagnosed with Leukemia Late?

Patients may be eligible to sue medical staff if their leukemia is diagnosed late. Leukemia is a type of cancer that affects the blood and bone marrow, where blood cells are produced. It involves the overproduction and accumulation of abnormal white blood cells in the blood and bone marrow – leading to acute or chronic complications. While most other cancers are staged based on solid tumors in specific organs or tissues, leukemia is staged differently.

According to the National Cancer Institute, there were approximately 59,610 new cases of leukemia across the US in 2023. The latest recorded (2013 to 2019) 5-year survival rate for all types of leukemia is at 66.7%.

Leukemia Misdiagnosis

Leukemia’s early symptoms can be challenging to detect early, with its earliest symptoms being similar to other less serious health conditions. Additional negligence from healthcare providers increases the chance of misdiagnosing the disease.

In a 2023 study, several systematic factors were found to have contributed to the delayed diagnosis of leukemia. These factors include:

  • Doctors downplaying symptoms that are present
  • Laboratories providing inaccurate test results
  • Doctors reading test results inaccurately
  • Miscommunication between multiple doctors

Apart from delaying diagnosis, these medical errors delay treatments as well. It is important to understand that medical malpractice can occur at any point in your journey. Expert cancer lawyers can help you pinpoint who’s potentially liable for your case – helping you get the medical compensation you rightfully deserve.

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Survival Rate and Early Detection

Early detection is a key factor when battling cancer. When treating leukemia, proper stage identification is crucial. It is important to note that there are also different staging systems for various types of leukemia. Here are four of the most prominent types of leukemia:

DescriptionStagingSurvival %
Acute Myeloid Leukemia (AML)Bone marrow produces a surplus of abnormal myeloid cells. These abnormal cells multiply quickly and interfere with healthy body functions.FAB ClassificationWHO Classification31.7%
Chronic Myeloid Leukemia (CML)A slowly progressing cancer that also affects the myeloid lineage of white blood cells. Symptoms show rather slowly.WHO CML Staging System70.6%
Acute Lymphocytic Leukemia (ALL)Bone marrow produces a surplus of abnormal lymphocytes. This hampers the body from properly fighting infections. It is the most common type of leukemia in children.B-Cell Staging (and T-Cell Staging)71.3%
Chronic Lymphocytic Leukemia (CLL)Slower compared to its acute counterpart, symptoms of abnormal lymphocytes present themselves after several years. More common in older patients.Rai SystemBinet Staging System88.0%

Having your leukemia diagnosed late or diagnosed as another condition constitutes medical malpractice. Such errors allow the disease to progress, ultimately setting patients up for an uphill battle. Cancers that are diagnosed in later stages naturally have lower survival rates.

Some of the early detection and diagnosis tests for leukemia include: 

1. Physical Exams

The exam focuses on checking for swollen lymph nodes, liver, and spleen. Signs of infection, bruising, and bleeding – which can be associated with certain types of leukemia – are also considered. 

2. Complete Blood Count (CBC)

This is a test that samples your blood and looks at all its components. It is the most useful test when looking to understand the overall health of a patient’s blood.

3. Flow Cytometry

A flow cytometry test helps identify the specific type of lymphoma or leukemia by analyzing the DNA content and growth rate of tumor cells. The test uses antibodies that attach to proteins on the cells' surface, and the pattern of attachment can indicate the presence of cancer.

4. Biopsy

Involves collecting samples of bone marrow, where leukemia originates. It helps determine the type and growth rate of the tumor, and assessing whether the disease has spread.

Healthcare providers should prescribe/do these tests promptly, especially for high-risk patients

Treatment Options for Leukemia

According to the National Cancer Institute, a total of $13.6 billion was spent by families for leukemia treatments in 2020 alone. The cost of these treatments can be segmented into three phases – initial care**, continuing care, and last year of life. Here are the average medical spending per patient:

**First year of diagnosis

Initial CareContinuing Care (computed anually)Last Year of Life
Chronic Myeloid Leukemia
Medical Services$34,875.4$13,950.2 $122,428.2
Prescriptions$32,481.0$46,743.4$15,303.5
Acute Myeloid Leukemia
Medical Services$190,305.0$21,758.1$249,124.7
Prescriptions$9,057.2$4,164.2$4,893.0
Chronic Lymphocytic Leukemia
Medical Services$25,505.9$12,076.3$94,111.5
Prescriptions$728.7$728.7$2,915.0
Acute Lymphocytic Leukemia
Medical Servicesunclear
Prescriptions

Numerous prescription drugs and procedures may be prescribed to patients, depending on their profile. These treatments often include one or a combination of the following:

Chemotherapy: The primary treatment for many forms of leukemia, involving a combination of drugs administered in a specific regimen to destroy tumor cells.
Radiation Therapy: Uses high-energy radiation to destroy leukemia cells, relieve discomfort from enlarged organs or swollen lymph nodes, and manage bone pain. Low-dose radiation may be given before a stem cell transplant.
Stem Cell Transplant: A procedure that infuses healthy blood-forming stem cells from the patient (autologous) or a matched donor (allogeneic) into the body to replace damaged or diseased bone marrow.
Immunotherapy: Uses medication to help the immune system identify and destroy cancer cells. Types include monoclonal antibodies, donor infusion treatments, and CAR T-cell therapy, which modifies the patient's T-cells to target cancer cells.
Targeted Therapy: Drugs designed to directly attack leukemia cells while minimizing damage to healthy cells, often used in combination with other treatments like chemotherapy.

Despite late diagnosis, patients can enhance their trajectory through simultaneous and complementary treatments. This is the primary reason why compensation should be awarded to cancer patients who are diagnosed late.

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Legal Implications and Compensation

When filing for medical malpractice, an in-depth initial investigation is crucial. Closely coordinate with a trusted legal counsel when evaluating whether or not you’d sue your doctor for medical negligence. These legal experts should help you establish and strengthen your claim. 

In a nutshell, four key elements should be established before a claim is deemed valid. These key elements are:

  • Duty of Care – “Was there an appropriate doctor-patient relationship?
  • Breach of Duty – “Were any of your doctor's actions/inactions below the standard of care?
  • Causation – “Did your doctor’s mistake/s directly cause your suffering?
  • Damages – “What damages did you incur as a result?

Compensation accounts for more than just medical expenses. Emotional trauma, lost wages, and having a lower quality of life are only some of the damages that can be included when seeking compensation.

According to the National Practitioner Data Bank, a total of 10,172 medical malpractice reports were made in 2023 – compensated with $408,339.56 on average. Do note that these cases may include relatively minor incidents. Please refer to our previous wins for more insight on medical malpractice compensation.

Speak to a Medical Malpractice Lawyer Today

Leukemia is highly curable if detected early. Medical malpractice puts many individuals into unfairly disadvantageous positions and should never be overlooked. At Porter Law Group, we safeguard you and your family’s best interests.

We work in tandem with licensed medical professionals to win your case. If you or someone dear to you has suffered due to medical malpractice, please reach out to us for a no-obligation free case evaluation. You can also contact us at 833-PORTER9 or info@porterlawteam.com to schedule an appointment.

Written By
Michael S. Porter
Personal Injury Attorney
Originally from Upstate New York, Mike built a distinguished legal career after graduating from Harvard University and earning his juris doctor degree from Syracuse University College of Law. He served as a Captain in the United States Army Judge Advocate General’s Corps, gaining expertise in trial work, and is now a respected trial attorney known for securing multiple million-dollar results for his clients while actively participating in legal organizations across Upstate NY.
Legally Reviewed on April 9, 2024
Eric C. Nordby
Personal Injury Attorney
Eric, with nearly three decades of experience in personal injury litigation, holds a law degree with honors from the University at Buffalo School of Law and a Bachelor's Degree from Cornell University. His extensive career encompasses diverse state and federal cases, resulting in substantial client recoveries, and he actively engages in legal associations while frequently lecturing on legal topics.
This Article Was Professionally Reviewed
This page was Legally Reviewed by Eric C. Nordby on April 9, 2024. Our experts verify everything you read to make sure it's up to date. For information on our content creation and review process read our editorial guidelines. If you notice an error or have any questions about our content please contact us.
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