Securing Legal Representation following a Failure to Diagnose Oral Cancer

Of the more than 35,000 cases of oral cancer diagnosed each year, many patients are diagnosed late into the third or fourth stage, when the disease can be extremely difficult, even impossible, to treat. If a dentist or other medical professional fails to notice obvious symptoms, this can seriously impair your ability to get treatment and is consequently considered malpractice.

Failure to diagnose oral cancer is far too common and Michigan's Robert Gittleman Law Firm, PLC is here to fight for the compensation you and your loved ones deserve and need in order to cope with the aftermath of malpractice. If you feel you have been a victim of dental malpractice, contact Mr. Gittleman online or call us at (248) 737-3600 as soon as possible for legal advice.

Early Cancer Detection is Essential

The Oral Cancer Foundation recognizes that oral cancer has an unfortunately high death rate not because it is hard to detect, but because it is often only diagnosed in later stages. Although this cancer is often asymptomatic in its earliest forms, this cannot explain every instance of late diagnosis. 

Because standard dental examinations include a screening for oral cancer, patients who regularly visit their dentist’s office should be able to expect thorough examinations. Furthermore, advanced treatment options should make oral cancer easier to detect and treat. Even with modern advances, these treatments are far more effective when applied in early stages, making proper oral cancer identification essential.

If you are a regular patient at your dentist’s office, and it can be proven that he or she was negligent in proper oral cancer screening, or blatantly ignored signs of cancer, he or she can be charged with malpractice.

Woman undergoing oral exam

A dentist has an obligation to identify potential oral health risks and address them appropriately as soon as possible. 

Your Dentist Has a Responsibility to Take Risk Factors Into Account 

There are several factors that can increase your risk of oral cancer. These include: 

  • Tobacco use 
  • Excessive alcohol consumption 
  • Human papilloma virus 
  • Age 
  • Sun exposure 
  • Poor nutrition 

During your appointment, your dentist should be evaluating you for these risk factors by collecting a full medical history prior to your appointment. 

What Should Happen at the Dental Office

In addition to asking about your risk factors, your dentist has various responsibilities as part of their standard of care. 

Recommending Routine Cleanings and Check-Ups Every Six Months 

These routine visits must be comprehensive in examining the mouth for oral health issues and should include the use of detection methods for disease, infection, and cancer. If any of these conditions are suspected or detected, it is the dentist’s responsibility to take appropriate action in preventing the worsening of conditions. This typically begins with alerting you about the condition and may include follow-up examinations or referrals to other medical professionals who can provide an accurate and thorough diagnosis.

Having litigated in more than 35 states, including Michigan, California, Florida, and Nevada, attorney Robert Gittleman has insight into how these cases differ from state to state. 

Thorough Examination 

It is also the dentist’s responsibility to visually examine your mouth for cancer and other conditions during dental treatments, procedures, and surgeries. To ensure successful treatment, dentists are obligated to ensure your mouth is healthy before performing any dental work. During any of these visits to the dentist’s office, your dentist should look for a variety of signs that indicate cancer, including:

  • Sores
  • Inflammation
  • Tissue redness
  • Painful areas
  • Whitish-looking tissue
  • Lesions
  • Canker sores

While these symptoms can sometimes indicate a number of other oral health conditions, they are all clinically observable and characteristic of cancer. As such, they must be immediately assumed to be cancer until proven otherwise.

Complete Oral Cancer Screening 

Untreated oral cancer usually results in death. The gravity of this risk requires urgent and continuous attention. Standards of care require your dentist to perform a comprehensive cancer screening every time your teeth are cleaned. Patients must be checked for signs of cancer and immediately informed of possible issues or complications.

Oral cancer word cloud

If a suspicious lesion is detected, your dentist must observe it for approximately 15 days. If it has not healed by that time, you should be referred to an oral surgeon for a consultation, evaluation, and a biopsy. A biopsy, or the removal and examination of tissue, is the most effective method for detecting cancer. Once the tissue is removed, it is sent to a pathologist who examines it under a microscope to determine whether cancer is present.

When detected early, cancerous lesions can be removed. Cancer still contained within sores or lesions can be excised during a relatively simple procedure that usually leaves patients cancer-free. If cancerous lesions are not removed, the cancer will likely infiltrate deep into your tissue and metastasize, or spread, to other parts of your body.

Consequences If Your Dentist Fails to Diagnose Oral Cancer

If your dentist fails to diagnose you with oral cancer, your condition will most likely progress and lead to even more serious consequences. 

Expensive Medical Treatment 

If cancer is not detected in its earliest stages, the cost of your surgical, radiation, or chemotherapy treatment can be very high. Treatment often lasts much longer than a simple surgical extraction might have if the cancer was detected early on. 

Painful Side Effects of Treatment 

Unfortunately, oral cancer therapy often comes with unpleasant side effects such as pain, difficulty swallowing, tooth decay, fatigue, hair loss, nausea, and vomiting. These painful symptoms can interfere with your ability to work and enjoy the same activities you enjoyed before your cancer diagnosis. 

Cancer Spread

According to the American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO), oral cancer has a higher rate of survival if it is diagnosed at an earlier stage. While the 5-year survival rate is 84 percent for those whose cancer is diagnosed early on, the 5-year survival rate is 64 percent for patients whose cancer has spread to the surrounding organs such as the lymph nodes. If the cancer progresses to other parts of the body, the 5-year survival rate drops to a devastating 39 percent. 

Wrongful Death 

Oral cancer has an alarmingly high mortality rate. The ASCO estimates that over 10,000 men and women will die from oral cancer each year. Because your dentist should be thoroughly checking for signs of oral cancer during your regular dental exam, these deaths could be prevented with early diagnosis and medical intervention. 

Compensation You Might Be Entitled To 

In general, the more serious your injuries are, the higher the amount of damages you are entitled to. We work with life care planners and professional medical providers to establish the full extent of your oral cancer, how it will affect you for the rest of your life, and the amount of compensation you will need to move forward as best as possible. Depending on the specifics of your case, you may be entitled to compensation for: 

  • Current and future medical bills 
  • Current and future loss of wages 
  • Ongoing therapy or treatment 
  • Pain and suffering 
  • Loss of consortium 
  • Reduced income due to the loss of a loved one 

Although some of these damages can be simple to prove, others such as pain and suffering are more difficult to establish without the help of a lawyer. Mr. Gittleman knows how to pursue a case to secure the maximum compensation possible. 

Why Pursue Legal Action 

Due to the catastrophic effects of cancer, some patients feel overwhelmed by the thought of pursuing legal action against their healthcare providers while facing potentially aggressive cancer treatments. Mr. Gittleman handles every case with compassion and care, and he can assist clients and their loved ones through the process. He has helped many victims of dental malpractice obtain the compensation needed to cope with the losses that result from this type of negligence.

Additionally, the cost of treating late-stage cancer can be devastating and a cancer diagnosis affects not only the patient but also their loved ones. Mr. Gittleman is prepared to help protect your family's best interests during this difficult time.

If you suspect that your dentist incorrectly diagnosed your oral cancer, hiring a lawyer who is familiar with the practice area is absolutely essential. 

Those affected by a dentist's negligence are encouraged to act quickly. First, you should consult Mr. Gittleman and discuss the details of your doctor's actions or inactions and the repercussions of those decisions. You will have the opportunity to consult with Mr. Gittleman about your rights, the legal process, what constitutes dental malpractice, standards of care violations, and suggested action. As Mr. Gittleman's client, you can expect to be fully informed about all your options and to have a thorough understanding of your case at every stage.

Following your consultation, Mr. Gittleman will begin gathering evidence and filing your case, allowing you to focus on the pursuit of competent medical care and other necessities. Dental malpractice cases can be complicated, but Mr. Gittleman and his team have the resources and advanced understanding of proper dental procedures to hold responsible parties accountable.

Our Knowledge of Dental Malpractice 

If you suspect that your dentist incorrectly diagnosed your oral cancer, hiring a lawyer who is familiar with the practice area is absolutely essential. Mr. Gittleman has litigated cases where dental disease or injury has occurred to to the dentist's negligence or wrongdoing for over three decades. His knowledge and dedication in dental malpractice have made him one of the most trusted lawyers in various states and other attorneys often seek out his help for these types of cases. 

Contact Robert Gittleman

Was your oral cancer undiagnosed, untreated, or not referred to an oral surgeon? If so, contact Robert Gittleman about investigating dental malpractice. Having litigated in more than 35 states, including Michigan, California, Florida, and Nevada, the firm also has insight into how these cases differ from state to state. Contact Robert Gittleman Law Firm, PLC online or call us at (248) 737-3600 to start discussing your case today.

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