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Stage 3 Cancer Medical Malpractice, Misdiagnosis, and Legal Options

New York has the seventh highest cancer incidence rate among all U.S. states. This means that there is a relatively higher concentration of cancer patients in New York than in most states. Cancer is a leading cause of death within the state, second only to heart disease.

Nearly 115,000 new cases of cancer are diagnosed in New York yearly.  According to the latest data from the New York State Department of Health, only 48.4% of invasive cancer incidents are detected early**; more than half are caught at Stage 3 or Stage 4.
**considered 14 of the most common cancer sites for males and females

While being diagnosed with Stage 3 cancer is overwhelming, keep in mind that many have survived through it. Positive progress starts with getting the right support and treatments. Every patient must understand both their medical and legal options.

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What is Stage 3 Cancer?

Stage III cancers are generally considered locally advanced, meaning that the cancer has spread to nearby structures or lymph nodes but has not yet spread to distant organs. This staging system was developed by the American Joint Committee on Cancer (AJCC), formally known as the TNM System.

It considers the following:

  • T – Stands for Tumor. Within the staging system, it ranges from 0-4. The bigger or more spread out, the higher the rating.
  • N – Stands for Node. This criteria considers the number of lymph nodes within an affected area. Its value varies from 0 to 3 depending on how far it has spread.
  • M – Stands for Metastasis. It describes whether the cancer has spread to distant organs. It's only rated as 1 or 0 (yes or no, respectively).

Stage III cancers are also referred to as Regional Cancer.

For Example:
Let’s dissect this Lung Cancer diagnosisT3N2M0, Stage IIIB

T3: indicates that the primary tumor is 5 to 7 cm in its greatest dimension, or it has directly invaded adjacent structures.

N2: means that the cancer has spread from the lung to the lymph nodes in the middle of the chest, on the same side as the main tumor.

M0: indicates that there is no evidence of metastasis to other distant organs.

IIIB: Cancer stages are further subdivided into groups; each subdivision covering specific TNM criteria.

Through this staging system, healthcare providers can better recommend appropriate treatments – giving patients a better fighting chance. However, not all cancers can be diagnosed using the TNM system.

UNIQUE STAGING FOR SOME TYPES OF CANCER

Gynecological(ovarian / cervical / uterine)Uses the FIGO staging system instead.
Brain
(or central nervous system)
Does not behave like usual cancers and is more confined. The World Health Organization devised a special grading system for it
Small-Cell Lung CancerUses the Two-Stage system – either Limited or Extensive.
Blood(leukemia / lymphoma / myeloma)Do not form tumors like typical cancers. Various staging systems are available for specific types.

Test and Procedures for Early Detection

Various tests and procedures are available for early cancer detection. Healthcare providers are also equipped with standard screening protocols for high-risk patients. Remember that your doctor’s failure to order necessary cancer detection exams constitutes medical malpractice.

Some of these early screening tests include:

Imaging Tests

These are non-invasive tests that allow doctors to visualize internal structures and identify abnormalities that indicate the presence of cancer. They can assess tumor size and location, and help determine the extent of cancer spread. CT scans, MRI, PET scans, and mammograms are some examples.

Endoscopic Procedures

These involve using a flexible tube with a camera and light source to examine internal organs and tissues. Apart from direct visualization, they also help when acquiring tissue samples. Colonoscopy, gastroscopy, and bronchoscopy are some common examples.

Laboratory Tests

Includes blood, urine, and other bodily fluid analyses, which can provide valuable information for early cancer detection. These tests can identify biomarkers, hormones, or other substances that may suggest the presence of cancer.

Tissue Sampling

Done by removing a small portion of suspicious tissue for microscopic examination. This procedure is essential for confirming the presence of cancer and determining its type and grade. Pap smear, biopsies, and fine-needle aspiration are some examples.

Physical Examination

During check-ups, doctors can identify unusual lumps, skin changes, or other abnormalities that may indicate the presence of cancer. Physical examinations – combined with an in-depth patient's medical history – can prompt further diagnostic tests if needed.

Stage 3 Cancer Survival Rates

Here are the survival rates of the most common cancers in the U.S., as provided by the National Cancer Institute:

Type of Cancer5-year Relative Survival Rate*
STAGE 1STAGE 3Stage 4
Bladder70.9%39.2%8.3%
Breast99.3%86.3%31.0%
Colorectal90.9%73.4%15.6%
Endometrium
(uterine lining)
94.9%69.8%18.4%
Liver37.3%14.3%3.5%
Lung62.8%34.8%8.2%
Skin
(Melanoma)
99.6%73.9%35.1%
Pancreas44.3%16.2%3.2%
Prostate100%100%34.1%
Thyroid99.9%98.3%53.5%
Lymph nodes (non-Hodgkin**)86.2%73.3%64.2%

*percentage of patients alive after 5 years of initial diagnosis
**
cancer cells may arise in lymph nodes anywhere in the body; whereas Hodgkin starts from the upper body

A proactive approach to cancer detection gives patients the best possible chance at recovery. Early cancer detection allows for timely interventions – effectively preventing cancer from spreading and becoming more difficult to treat. By staying diligent, healthcare professionals can identify cancers at their earliest stages. Delayed cancer diagnosis can be considered medical malpractice in many cases.

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Legal Implications of Late Diagnosis

In a 2019 study analyzing more than 2000 cancer malpractice cases, it was reported that the most common medical errors that lead to cancer misdiagnosis include: 

  • failure or delay in ordering a diagnostic test (present in 51% of all cases)
  • failure or delay in obtaining a consult or referral (present in 37% of all cases)
  • errors in diagnosis by primary care provider (present in 46% of all cases)

The study also indicates that these preventable errors severely harm patients in the long run. Patients who have experienced medical malpractice are eligible for legal compensation, which should cover all past and future expenses relevant to their recovery.

In 2023, around 1,154 medical malpractice cases were reported in New York alone. The average medical malpractice compensation for the state was about $500,684 for the entire year – well above the national average which was $408,339.

Do keep in mind, however, that these figures include less severe medical malpractice cases. Based on our experience, legal compensation can easily increase tenfold in more severe incidents. Specific compensation figures are provided on our results page.

Treatments for Stage 3 Cancer

The treatment for stage 3 cancer varies depending on the type of cancer, its location, and the patient's overall health. These treatments (past and present) should be accounted for when computing compensation. Some of the more common medical treatments include:

  • Surgery – The primary tumor and affected lymph nodes may be surgically removed, if possible. The extent of surgery depends on the cancer type and location.
  • Chemotherapy Drugs that kill rapidly dividing cells, including cancer cells, are often administered intravenously or orally. Chemotherapy may be given before surgery to shrink the tumor, or after surgery to kill any remaining cancer cells.
  • Radiation Therapy – High-energy radiation is used to kill cancer cells in a targeted area. It may be used before or after surgery, or in combination with chemotherapy.
  • Targeted Therapy – These drugs target specific molecules involved in cancer growth and survival. They are often used for cancers with specific genetic mutations or protein expression.
  • Immunotherapy – This treatment harnesses the patient's immune system to fight cancer cells. Checkpoint inhibitors, CAR T-cell therapy, and cancer vaccines are examples of immunotherapy.
  • Hormone therapy – For cancers that are sensitive to hormones, such as  breast and prostate cancer, drugs that block or lower hormone levels may be used.

The choice of treatment depends on various factors, including the cancer type, the patient's age and overall health, and the treatment goals (curative or palliative). In many cases, a combination of therapies is used for the best possible outcome.

Why The Porter Law Group?

We take pride in helping families rebuild from unfavorable circumstances. We stick by our clients until the end – our rapport extends even after gaining courtroom success or reaching a settlement that favors our client. If you have any questions regarding cancer misdiagnosis, please reach out for a no-obligation, free consultation.

You may also contact us at 833-PORTER9 or info@porterlawteam.com to schedule an appointment. If you are looking to pursue further legal action, we operate on a contingency basis – meaning you don’t have to pay anything unless we win.

Other Cancer Support Systems in New York

  1. American Cancer Society - Hope Lodge
    Provides free lodging for cancer patients and their caregivers who need to travel for treatment. They also offer transportation assistance and support programs.
  1. CancerCare
    Offers free professional support services, including counseling, support groups, educational workshops, and financial assistance for cancer patients and their loved ones.
  1. Gilda's Club New York City
    Provides free support groups, educational lectures, healthy lifestyle workshops, and social activities for cancer patients, survivors, and their families.
  1. The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society - New York City Chapter
    Offers free information, support services, and financial assistance for patients with blood cancers and their families.
  1. Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center - Resources for Life After Cancer Program
    Provides free support services, educational programs, and wellness activities for cancer survivors.
  1. Perlmutter Cancer Center at NYU Langone Health - Supportive Care Services
    Provides free support groups, counseling, and integrative health services for cancer patients and their families.
  1. Share Cancer Support
    Provides free support groups, educational programs, and survivor hotlines for women affected by breast, ovarian, or metastatic breast cancer.
  1. Weill Cornell Medicine - Psychosocial Oncology Program
    Offers free counseling, support groups, and educational programs for cancer patients, survivors, and their families.
Last Updated on March 22, 2024 by Michael S. Porter
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