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Could cancer startup reduce delayed-diagnosis claims?

A former Google executive has launching a startup with a personal agenda. After losing his wife to colon cancer, Jeff Huber hopes his new startup, Grail, can develop a test that will detect cancer early. He hopes to prevent more late diagnoses, like his wife's, that can make cancer more difficult to treat.

The startup is looking to raise $1 billion in venture capital to develop a test that can detect any of the main types of cancer, Forbes reported recently.

If the venture is successful, it could potentially save or extend lives. And the promise of making it easier to detect cancer early on could possibly help prevent a certain type of malpractice claim: delayed diagnosis.

Delayed diagnosis and malpractice claims

There are three main types of diagnosis errors that could be grounds for medical malpractice:

  • Failure to diagnose
  • Misdiagnosis
  • Delayed diagnosis

Failure to diagnose and misdiagnosis can mean a disease never is treated at all. A delayed diagnosis is somewhat different, because eventually the disease is diagnosed and treated. The problem here is when the difference between early treatment and later treatment means the difference between life and death.

Indeed, a delayed diagnosis can often make a life-and-death difference when it comes to treating cancer.

That said, just because a doctor fails to diagnosis a condition in time doesn't necessarily mean the doctor was negligent and did not meet an acceptable standard of care - two key criteria for a malpractice claim.

A new test that can detect cancer early could cut down on delayed diagnoses, whether they constitute medical malpractice or not. But, as Forbes notes, some cancers are deadly whether you catch them early or late, and the test could bring potential new problems of its own. What if it erroneously detects cancer, prompting treatment, when there is nothing wrong?

Still, investors seem to be optimistic about the potential for the test, and there's no reason those affected by cancer shouldn't be, too. 

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