Men frequently possess a poor understanding of prostate cancer, their own risk for the cancer, and the ways in which they can figure out whether they have prostate cancer. Many men have minimal, if any, idea of the merit of screening for prostate cancer or of the recommendations for when they should start screening, how often to screen, and how to interpret the test results. They put their confidence in their physician to do whatever is appropriate to diagnose any cancer early and cure them.
There are several various factors that might result in a delayed diagnosis. One common type of medical error that forms the basis for these cases arises when a man’s primary care physician (1) actually screens the individual for prostate cancer by tracking the level of PSA (Prostate Specific Antigen) in his system, (2) records abnormally elevated amounts of PSA and but (3) neither tells him of abnormal results (and what they signify) nor orders diagnostic tests, like a biopsy, to eliminate prostate cancer. Examine the following lawsuit, for example:
In this reported claim a male patient found out he had prostate cancer after he followed up when advised by his internist that he most likely had cancer. The problem in this case was that the physician did not tell the patient that he could have cancer until the third year of elevated PSA test results. The year before the patient’s PSA level had gone up to 13.6. Two years prior to that it had been at 8.0 During these years the internist did nothing to rule out prostate cancer as the cause of these elevated readings and did not inform the patient. More testing uncovered that by now the patient had metastatic prostate cancer. A prostatectomy was now not a choice. Treating physicians alternatively recommended radiation therapy and hormone therapy. Neither of these would cure the cancer but they might obstruct the cancer’s advancement and additional spread. The law firm that handled this matter reported that they took the case to mediation where they were able to obtain a settlement of $ 600,000.
However doing nothing after noting abnormal test results brings about a situation in which those patients who do actually have prostate cancer may not discover they have it until it has spread outside the prostate, decreasing the patient’s options for treatment, and considerably reducing the likelihood that the patient will be able to survive the cancer.
They should at least tell the patient that the results of the screening tests are abnormal and refer him to a urologist. Another option is to order recommend diagnostic testing, such as a biopsy.
As the above lawsuit demonstrates doctors sometimes comply with the guidelines by performing screening for prostate cancer yet when the test results are abnormal they fail to follow through.