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Every year more than 240,000 men are diagnosed with prostate cancer, and over 30,000 men die from prostate cancer every year.
Over the past decade, medical experts and healthcare policymakers have debated the efficacy of current medical procedures for screening, diagnosing, and treating prostate cancer. In general, there are two primary ways by which prostate cancer is diagnosed. A digital rectal exam (DRE) or the use of prostate-specific antigen (PSA) testing. Although the PSA test has been shown to more reliably detect the possibility of prostate cancer than a digital rectal exam, the PSA test also produces a large number of “false positives” thereby causing a large number of men who have suspicious PSA tests to worry and to undergo treatment, such as biopsies and prostate surgeries, unnecessarily. Thus, there is still considerable debate in the medical community as to whether or not the PSA test should be administered routinely or if it should simply be left as an option for the patient.
In our experience, the delayed diagnosis of prostate cancer usually results from errors by physicians that are outside the scope of that policy debate. In many of the malpractice cases we see, a patient was diagnosed with an enlarged prostate (medically, benign prostatic hyperplasia) for symptoms like incontinence, frequent urination, or other urinary problems, and their primary care physician failed to follow-up with any sort of other testing, like a digital rectal exam or the prostate-specific antigen blood test. In many of those instances, although the patient was exhibiting signs that would be either an enlarged prostate or prostate cancer, the doctor simply assumed it was an enlarged prostate, and thereafter did not perform or recommend any other tests.
In other cases we have seen, the primary care physician correctly suspects the possibility of prostate cancer while performing a digital rectal examine or from reviewing initial PSA test results, but thereafter fails to follow-up with the patient, such as by performing future PSA tests frequently enough. In other instances, the patient is referred to a surgeon for an exploratory biopsy, but the results of that biopsy are never communicated back to the primary care physician so the tumor and cancerous region continues to grow without any future treatment.