Men are likely to have a bad comprehension of prostate cancer, their own chances for the cancer, and the methods available for detecting if they have prostate cancer. Most male patients do not even know what it means to test for prostate cancer or that screening should be undertaken prior to when they manifest symptoms. Yet, far too often, doctors detect the cancer only after it is past the early stages because of deficient of screening.
Delayed diagnosis of prostate cancer cases are all too common. One typical medical error that is at the root of these cases comes about when a man’s primary care physician (1) orders a PSA blood test, (2) finds abnormally raised levels of PSA and but (3) fails to tell the patient, fails to refer the patient to a specialist, and does not get a biopsy to determine if the elevated PSA from prostate cancer. The case below is an example of this problem.
A physician, an internist, found out that his male patient had a PSA of 8. (a level above a 4.0 is normally viewed as high). The doctor did not inform the patient. The physician failed to refer the patient to a urologist. The doctor did not order a biopsy. Two years later the physician repeated the PSA test. This time the PSA level had gone up to 13.6. Again, the physician said nothing to the patient. Again, the doctor did not refer the patient to a urologist. And again, the doctor did not order a biopsy. Two years later the physician repeated the PSA test. It was not until three years after first finding out about the patient’s heightened PSA level that the doctor at last advised him that he probably had cancer. More testing showed that by now he had advanced prostate cancer. A prostatectomy was now not a choice. Treating doctors instead advised radiation therapy and hormone therapy. Neither of these would eliminate the cancer but they might slow the cancer’s advancement and additional spread. The law firm that handled this matter reported that they took the lawsuit to mediation where they achieved a settlement of $ 600,000.
But not following up after noting abnormal test results brings about a situation in which those patients who do actually have prostate cancer may not learn they have it until it has spread beyond the prostate, decreasing the patient’s options for treatment, and substantially lessening the possibility that the patient will be able to survive the cancer.
At a minimum they ought to tell the patient that the test results are abnormal and refer the man to a urologist. Another option is to order propose diagnostic testing, such as a biopsy.
As the case reveals a doctor who commits this type of mistake may be liable for medical malpractice.