A delay in diagnosis of cancer may cause a patient’s prognosis to go from bad to worse. When it comes to lung cancer, this maxim holds true. Recognizing that earlier detection of lung cancer saves lives, the American Association for Thoracic Surgery published updated guidelines for screening high risk patients in order to catch evidence of lung cancer early on. If a physician fails to schedule a screening test for a high risk patient, this may constitute grounds for a medical malpractice case under Ohio law.
The American Association for Thoracic Surgery’s guidelines for lung cancer screening published in the Journal of Thoracic and Cardiovascular Surgery identify those patients who are at high risk: smokers and lung cancer survivors. Then, the guidelines recommend the use of low-dose computed tomography (CT) scans to look for evidence of lung cancer. Research shows that low-dose CT imaging reduces deaths from lung cancer.
Under these guidelines, 94 million Americans are now eligible for screening. Lung cancer afflicts over a quarter of a million new people each year. In many instances, if caught early, lung cancer can be treated and cured. When physicians fail to order screening tests for high risk patients, they may be held liable for medical negligence. Physicians owe a duty to perform their duties within accepted standards of medical care. This includes providing preventative and screening medical services to prevent disease or to optimize treatment.
Under Ohio law, if a smoker contracts lung cancer, the fact that the his/her own bad habit may have contributed to the development of cancer is irrelevant. Physicians take the patient as they find them. A physician owes no less of a duty to schedule screening exams simply because the patient smokes. Indeed, as reflected in these revised guidelines, the duty actually arises in such a circumstance.