Medical Errors are Common When Diagnosing Skin Cancer


Skin cancer is one of the most common cancers in the world. In the United States, there are more than 3 million people diagnosed with skin cancer each year.  Skin cancer is the mutation of cells beneath the skin that is often highly aggressive.  These highly aggressive mutations grow out of control and form cancerous cells.  If left untreated, skin cancer can metastasize or spread to the bones, organs, and other parts of the body, resulting in fatal consequences.  Skin cancer comes in the form of lesions and tumors.  Types of skin cancers include:

  • Basal cell carcinoma;
  • Squamous cell carcinoma;
  • Melanoma;
  • Merkel cell carcinoma;
  • Kaposi sarcoma; and 
  • Sebaceous gland carcinoma, among others. 


In addition to metastasizing, malignant skin cancer can result in disfigurements of the body when left untreated.  

Skin cancer is commonly found on the following areas of the body as a result of constant sun exposure: 

  • Face;
  • Head;
  • Neck;
  • Arms;
  • Hands;
  • Back;
  • Chest;
  • Legs; and
  • Toes.


It is important for skin cancer to be diagnosed as early as possible.  A licensed dermatologist should properly evaluate a suspicious mark on the body.  A dermatologist specializes in evaluating and treating skin conditions, as well as identifying abnormalities in the skin. When necessary, a biopsy should be taken of suspicious marks on the body and sent to a pathologist.  A pathologist is a medical professional responsible for examining tissue in order to assist the dermatologist in diagnosing a patient with skin cancer. 

Commonly, medical malpractice occurs when a dermatologist or pathologist fails to timely and properly diagnose a patient with skin cancer and, as a result, the patient is harmed. According to the Journal of the American Medical Association, common medical errors that occur in dermatology and pathology that give rise to a medical malpractice claim include:

  • Misdiagnosing skin cancer;
  • Failing to diagnose skin cancer;
  • Improperly examining the patient;
  • Failing to take a biopsy;
  • Misinterpreting results;
  • Examining the wrong biopsy;
  • Providing results for the incorrect patient;
  • Contamination of the biopsy;
  • Losing the biopsy and never testing it; and
  • Failing to give results to the patient.


In New York State to succeed in a claim related to skin cancer medical malpractice, a plaintiff must show: 

  • The pathologist or dermatologist had a duty of care; 
  • The duty of care to the patient was breached; and 
  • That breach was the proximate cause of the patient’s injuries. 


A victim of medical error involving skin cancer may be able to recover damages for the following: 

  • Medical expenses;
  • Rehabilitation;
  • Pain and suffering; and 
  • Lost wages, among others. 


If you or someone you love was a victim of a dermatology or pathology error and suffered harm, it is important to contact an experienced medical malpractice attorney.  While Lavern’s Law has extended the time frame that a victim of skin cancer misdiagnosis has to commence a lawsuit in New York, it is important to speak with an experienced medical malpractice lawyer as soon as the misdiagnosis is discovered. 

The New York City personal injury lawyers at Georgaklis & Mallas, PLLC are experienced in representing clients in medical malpractice matters. To schedule a consultation with our New York medical malpractice lawyers call (718) 238-2400 to schedule a consultation in our Brooklyn law office or (212) 779-2400 for our Manhattan law office.