Misdiagnosis and
delayed diagnosis
of cancer

What to do if you've been misdiagnosed

If you have a serious progressive illness and have been misdiagnosed, you may be able to claim compensation.

The term 'misdiagnosis' encompasses several things:

  • delayed diagnosis
  • incorrect or wrongful diagnosis
  • failure to make any diagnosis.

To make a claim, you have to prove both that malpractice occurred and that the misdiagnosis caused harm, loss or injury. For example, a misdiagnosis may cause a delay in treatment that prevents your recovery, or it may cause a short delay that does not result in a worse outcome (such as reduced life expectancy or more invasive treatment).

Cancer misdiagnosis

Cancer misdiagnosis can cause devastating physical, psychological and financial burdens for patients and their families. Misdiagnosis can include:

Delayed diagnosis: This occurs when a medical professional fails to recognise early signs of cancer, which results in delayed treatment. Because of the aggressive nature and rapid growth of some types of cancer, a delayed diagnosis can result in a patient's unnecessary death.

Incorrect or wrongful cancer diagnosis: This can happen if a non-cancerous condition is wrongly diagnosed as cancer, and a patient may undergo unnecessary cancer treatment. This also can happen if a patient with cancer is diagnosed with a different condition. As a result, the patient can miss a critical window of time for cancer treatment.

Failure to diagnose cancer: This happens when medical professionals completely fail to diagnose a patient’s cancer. In these cases, another doctor or specialist often diagnoses the cancer after the onset of severe symptoms that indicate the cancer is advanced. In extreme cases, a patient may die before the cancer is diagnosed.

Breast, colorectal, lung and pancreatic cancer are among those commonly misdiagnosed.

Cancer misdiagnosis may become medical negligence when a medical professional fails to:

  • acknowledge, investigate or identify certain symptoms
  • administer appropriate cancer testing when symptoms or other risk factors call for it
  • properly conduct cancer testing such as biopsies or MRIs
  • correctly read or interpret test results
  • acknowledge or investigate medical recommendations made by a testing lab
  • refer a patient to a more qualified specialist (if they lack the right skills or expertise)
  • provide prompt and adequate follow-up care to assess treatment.

Misdiagnosis also can become negligence if a medical professional treats a patient in a way that is not medically warranted by the symptoms.

Why Maurice Blackburn?

We know that misdiagnosis of a serious, progressive illness can have devastating consequences. If you or a loved one has been misdiagnosed, our team can help you understand your legal options to achieve the best possible outcome.

We are Australia's leading medical negligence law firm and have a team of dedicated personal injury lawyers who only handle medical malpractice claims. This team has successfully represented hundreds of patients and their families in complex and sensitive cases.

Medical malpractice laws are different across states and territories, so it's important to have a local lawyer with national resources. That's why Maurice Blackburn Lawyers has offices in Melbourne, Sydney, Brisbane, Perth, Adelaide, Darwin and throughout Australia.

If you think you have experienced medical malpractice, talk to us today to find out how we can help you.


We provide our medical negligence legal services on a 'no win, no fee'* basis. This means that you will only pay our legal fees if you receive a settlement or compensation. You would not be charged our fees if the claim is not pursued after investigation.

All you need to know about medical negligence

If your health care professional, hospital or other facility breaches what’s known as their duty of care, you may be able to make a claim for compensation.

No win, no fee*

Our medical negligence lawyers are experienced in winning fair compensation for our clients on a no win, no fee basis.

Our fees and agreements

It doesn’t cost you anything to know where you stand

Can we help?

Find an office near you

Let us contact you

It doesn’t cost you anything to know where you stand

We take calls 24/7

Call us now
1800 305 568

Free Call

Find an office near you

Let us contact you