Failure to Diagnose Brain Tumors

Brain tumor misdiagnosis is a very real phenomenon that deserves serious attention. This is especially true considering 26,000 cases of cancerous brain tumors are detected every year in the US and 17,000 people die as a result. Misdiagnoses of this kind mostly happen in cases where mutated cells grow in the brain tissue or where cancerous cells grow elsewhere in the body before making their way to the brain. Brain tumors can be either benign (non-cancerous) or malignant (cancerous), but either way they need to be treated to prevent interference with brain activity.

Diagnosing Brain Tumors

A brain tumor is a growth of abnormal cells in the tissue of the brain. If a tumor begins growing in the brain then it is called a primary tumor, but if the tumor starts growing elsewhere, it is known as a metastatic brain tumor. The location of the mass will determine the symptoms the patient experiences because each part of the brain is associated with a different function. For instance, a tumor touching the corpus callosum – nerve fibers connecting the two hemispheres of the brain – might result in “split brain syndrome” which can cause “word blindness.”

Other symptoms include the following:

  • Double vision
  • Change in Behavior
  • Disorientation or dizziness
  • Difficulty with speech
  • Stroke
  • Inexplicable seizures

Where Things Go Wrong

Because these symptoms are associated with other sicknesses, it is no surprise that doctors sometimes misdiagnose a brain tumor. In order to properly diagnose a brain tumor, it is usually necessary to do a brain scan, neurological tests or a biopsy. But seeing as how tests are not cheap and a biopsy carries certain risks, people may forgo these procedures, leaving them vulnerable to a worsening condition.

Brain scans are images taken of the brain using specially designed machines. In many cases, technicians will use contrast medium in order to better detect the tumor. There are several types of scans used for diagnosing brain tumors. They are MRIs, PET scans and CT scans. Due to the risks involved (e.g. radiation), doctors might sometimes skip these tests.

In addition to a brain scan, doctors might decide to do a biopsy, which involves the temporary removal of a section of the skull to gain access to the mass. In some cases, such as when the tumor is near the outer region of the brain, doctors may use a needle to obtain a sample of the growth. Even in this case, the doctor must drill a small hole in the skull. This is the most accurate way to determine the nature of a growth in the brain, but it is also the most invasive procedure. In fact, many times, doctors will decide to do a biopsy only after detecting the tumor by other means.

Conclusive Remarks  

In short, misdiagnosis of this kind is usually due to a lack of proper tests. Doctors may fail to order the necessary procedures because the symptoms of a brain tumor often appear to be the symptoms of another ailment altogether. This is of course deadly for a patient with a brain tumor because when a doctor fails to diagnose, the mass is given time to grow leading to the eventual death of the patient.

Finally, the doctor may mistake the growth for any number of sicknesses, including Alzheimer’s disease, Encephalitis, Meningitis and Lyme disease, to name a few. When such an egregious error is made and negligence and causation have been proven, the patient may be able to compile a case for a medical malpractice suit. In such a case, he or she should contact lawyer who specializes in malpractice cases so as not to go through this process alone.