Last Updated on February 27, 2024

Can I Sue If I've Been Diagnosed with Ovarian Cancer Late?

Ovarian cancer is the second most common gynecological cancer but causes the most deaths among cancers that affect the female reproductive system. Given the lack of comprehensive screening tests, only about 20% of ovarian cancers are found at an early stage (Stage I or II).

When found at its later stages, ovarian cancer’s long-term survival rate plummets to 20%. This is very unfortunate seeing that the cure rate when diagnosed early is at 90%.

Medical malpractice can occur at any point in your journey. Given the limitations in screening and diagnosis, medical professionals must ensure that every test is handled properly – ensuring that patients are not put in unfairly disadvantaged positions. This article should help you reflect on your journey so far (or that of someone dear) and if you have grounds for a medical malpractice claim.

Understanding Ovarian Cancer

Understanding the specifics of ovarian cancer would allow you to make better-informed decisions, both medically and legally. Furthermore, this understanding should allow you to better pinpoint where the medical malpractice was done within your treatment/diagnosis.

What is Ovarian Cancer?

Ovarian cancer forms in the ovaries, which are reproductive glands found in the female reproductive system. All ovarian cancers include one or both ovaries and can extend to nearby tissues in the belly area. There are three primary types of ovarian cancer:

Epithelial Ovarian CarcinomasThis is the most common type of ovarian cancer, with 85% to 90% starting at the outer surface of the ovaries. About 70% of such cases are diagnosed late, posing a threat to the lining of nearby organs located in the pelvis and abdomen.
Germ Cell TumorsMake up less than 2% of all ovarian cancers. They begin in women’s egg cells and are more common in the younger population (teenagers and those in their 20s). It is highly treatable, with a 90% 5-year relative survival rate.
Stromatal Cell TumorsRepresent only 1% of all ovarian cancers and form around tissues that support the ovaries. This is often found in its early stages.

Early Signs and Symptoms

Ovarian cancer causes several symptoms, even in its earlier stages. While these symptoms are shared with other non-cancerous diseases. Increased frequency (more than 12 times a month) calls for immediate medical attention. The more common early symptoms include:

  • Bloating
  • Pelvic/Belly Pain
  • Loss of Appetite (or feeling full quickly)
  • Increased urinary urgency and frequency (always feeling like you need to go and having to go often)

At the same time, some symptoms are more specific to ovarian cancer. These symptoms include:

  • Fatigue (extreme tiredness)
  • Upset Stomach
  • Back Pain
  • Pain during intercourse
  • Constipation
  • Changes in menstrual period (irregular or heavier bleeding)
  • Weight loss accompanied by abdominal swelling

Standard Screening and Early Detection

Going through standard yearly check-ups is one of the best ways to catch ovarian cancer early. During a standard pelvic exam, your healthcare feels the size, shape, and consistency of both the ovaries and the uterus. However, given the size and location of the ovaries, detecting ovarian tumors early is notably challenging.

Ovarian cancers are sometimes detected through PAP tests, but in such cases, ovarian cancer is already in its advanced stages. Researchers are still actively developing early screening tests for ovarian cancer. There are 2 main tests used to detect ovarian cancer:

  • Transvaginal Ultrasound (TVUS): is an imaging test that utilizes sound waves to visually inspect the uterus, fallopian tubes, and ovaries. This is done by inserting an ultrasound probe into the vaginal canal. While this test can detect abnormal mass or tumor in the ovary, it cannot definitively diagnose whether the mass is cancerous or not.
  • CA-125 blood test: is a test conducted to quantify the concentration of CA-125 protein in the blood, as ovarian cancer patients often exhibit elevated levels of this marker. This test is also useful in monitoring treatment efficacy in patients already diagnosed with ovarian cancer. However, without an established baseline, CA-125 testing cannot definitively identify if a patient has ovarian cancer – especially for healthier women.

Screening tests for ovarian cancer are fairly limited. Given this restriction, each test must be handled properly to ensure the accuracy of its results. It is the duty of your healthcare provider to prescribe you such tests (and any subsequent ones) to detect ovarian cancer early – especially if you are a high-risk individual.

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Building a Case for Ovarian Cancer Malpractice

In a nutshell, four key elements need to be established before a medical malpractice claim can be validated. Consulting the right professionals can would allow you to better establish and strengthen your claim. These four key elements are as follows:

Duty of Care - Was there an appropriate doctor-patient relationship?
Breach of Duty - Did your doctor/s fail to uphold their legally sworn obligations to you?
Causation - Did your doctor’s actions/inactions cause you direct harm?
Damages - What did these shortcomings cost you (financially, emotionally, medically, etc.)?

Your respective legal counsel should help you answer and establish these elements. Your lawyer would also require all documents relevant to your case – with which they will help you acquire. Some of these documents include (but are not limited to):

  • Detailed notes on appointments when symptoms were discussed
  • Specific tests, exams, or specialist referrals that should have been ordered
  • Documentation of abnormal test results not appropriately followed up
  • Records reflecting a failure to monitor the patient over time
  • Proof that the patient clearly communicated symptoms

It is advised that you reach out to ovarian cancer malpractice lawyers as soon as possible to ensure that your claim falls within the NY Statute of Limitations.  For misdiagnosis, statutes generally start running once the mistake is discovered or once continuous treatment has stopped. In New York, patients have up to 2 years and 6 months to file a case; this may still vary from case to case. 

Working with the Right Professionals

Lawyers work in tandem with licensed medical experts when tackling such cases. With the right medical opinions, you and your lawyer may be provided with the proper course of diagnostic action based on symptoms; which tests and exams meet reasonable standards of care; independent review of records to highlight breaches; and proper causation (linking the misdiagnosis to subsequent patient harm).

Through these insights, your lawyer can ensure that the damages are pursued to the fullest extent. Here are some factors that can be considered when accounting for your rightful compensation:

  • Additional medical treatment necessitated by disease progression
  • Resulting loss of income and/or earning capacity
  • Pain, suffering, and mental anguish
  • Lower quality of life from side effects or physical restrictions

Speak to a Lawyer about Ovarian Cancer Malpractice

At Porter Law Group, we aim to safeguard the best interests of you and your family. We work with the best medical professionals (gynecologists, oncologists, radiologists, pathologists, OB/GYN) in New York to approach an ovarian cancer malpractice case holistically. 

If you or a loved one has suffered due to ovarian cancer malpractice, please reach out to us for a no-obligation, free case evaluation. You may 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 February 20, 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 February 20, 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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