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Diagnosing cancer in patients

Believing that a lump or abnormality could be cancerous can be incredibly scary for many North Carolina residents. Before a doctor can start treatment, however, the abnormality must be diagnosed as being cancer.

In almost all cases, cancer is diagnosed by experts who uses cell or tissue samples and analyze them under a microscope to determine if there are any irregularities. Items such as DNA, RNA and proteins from cells will typically be examined during this process if additional tests are required. Samples are collected by a procedure known as a biopsy, during which a portion of the potentially affected cells are taken from the patient.

A suspicious lump on a patient's body discovered by a medical professional runs the risk of being cancerous. A lump may be found either through touch during a physical exam or by imaging studies. However, once a lump is identified, the doctor will still need to collect a tissue sample and view it under the microscope. It should be noted that lumps are not always cancerous; in some cases, the lumps can be diagnosed as benign tumors, which may grow but will not spread to the rest of the body. Malignant tumors, on the other hand, are cancerous and can spread, making an early diagnosis essential for the most effective treatments.

While it can be difficult to catch the early signs of cancer, a patient's prognosis may worsen if a medical professional fails to correctly diagnose the disease. If it is believed that a doctor acted negligently by waiving tests or ignoring their patient's concerns, the afflicted individual may have the grounds to file a medical malpractice lawsuit. In some situations, a plaintiff may receive compensation for their medical expenses and pain and suffering as a result of the suspected negligence.

Source: American Cancer Society, Inc., "How is cancer diagnosed?", November 29, 2014

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Diagnosing cancer in patients | Britton Law, P.A.