Zevan and Davidson Law Firm Articles Medical Malpractice and Oral Cancer

Medical Malpractice and Oral Cancer

By Kevin Davidson  Oct. 31, 2014 7:10a

This year, oral cancer will take the lives of over 8,000 persons.

A large number of oral cancer cases are diagnosed by doctors and dentists each year. However, it has been observed that although most cases are diagnosed when the patient is still young, the outcome is largely poor for many of them. Early detection of oral cancer is vital to successfully treating the disease. Failure to diagnose the cancer may leave a physician open to medical malpractice.

Factors Leading to Oral Cancer

There are numerous types of oral cancer, affecting the mouth, throat, tonsils, tongue, and esophagus. The number of people diagnosed with oral cancer exceeds 43,000 each year, and it is gradually increasing. Most oral cancer cases are the result of the following factors:

  1. Prolonged and excessive alcohol or tobacco use.
  2. HPV-16 virus exposure.
  3. Asbestos exposure.

However, around seven percent of patients diagnosed with oral cancer had it in their family. Sadly, it is not easy to treat oral cancer, and it often ends in death if it is not detected early. Around forty-three percent of patients whose oral cancer was detected late die within five years of the diagnosis.

Early Detection of Oral Cancer

Due to this, early detection by dentists and other medical professionals is essential. Dental professionals have the responsibility of detecting oral cancer in its early stages. Since the majority of Americans visit their dentists each year, thousands of cancer cases could be detected early if proper cancer screening is performed by dentists. Doctors conduct regular prostate exams, mammograms, and PAP smears, and this has had a positive effect on the early detection of diseases in the U.S. Oral cancer screening too can have positive results. Recent U.S. research revealed that less than fifteen percent of patients went through oral cancer screening during the last visit to their dentist.

Medical Malpractice Lawsuits Filed By Cancer Patients

The University of Nebraska Medical Center studied medical malpractice lawsuits in the U.S. Researchers checked the records of oral cancer patients who filed medical malpractice lawsuits after their diagnosis and resulting treatment. Researchers also looked into jury reviews of fifty cases from 1984 to 2000. Researchers noted that the average age of patients was forty-five, and almost half of them died because of the disease. Many of the younger plaintiffs received positive outcomes from the lawsuits. The average compensation given to younger plaintiffs was around $750,000 while older plaintiffs received around $500,000 in compensation.

Eighty-six percent of the cases showed that dental practitioners were charged with the failure to diagnose the patient in a timely manner. Other allegations in the cases included the failure to perform a biopsy and refer patients to an oncologist. Among the recommendations of the researchers was the establishment of risk management goals among medical professionals to avoid delays in diagnosis.

Public awareness was considered a critical factor in early detection of the disease. Compared to other types of cancer, it is not easy to detect oral cancer. Many people experience oral conditions that are similar to pre-cancerous tissues, including sores and wounds. Monitoring these conditions regularly over a period of time can help detect any abnormalities that may lead to oral cancer. If the abnormalities do not disappear after two weeks, the patient should consult a dentist and request a oral cancer screening.

If a medical professional failed to diagnose your oral cancer in a timely manner, contact Zevan and Davidson Law Firm at (314) 588-7200.

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