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What to know about cancer misdiagnosis

On Behalf of | Nov 16, 2021 | Medical Malpractice

Medical malpractice is when a doctor falls below a minimum care standard, causing injury to patients. Medical malpractice can occur in many ways and often involves broken down systems that make it difficult for medical providers to meet the standard of care. Misdiagnosis is when the doctor made a diagnosis but an incorrect one. A study reported in Medical News Today and conducted in Houston, Texas, revealed that misdiagnosis occurs in 1 out of 20 adults on average.

Cancer misdiagnosis

A 2018 study from the John Hopkins Medical Institute found that rates for cancer misdiagnosis occur in 1 out of 71 cases. A correct cancer diagnosis is important to not only extend a patient’s life but also to ensure they get the correct and timely treatment. The doctor often misdiagnosis cancer as another less harmful condition, which delays treatment for the real disease.

However, it isn’t uncommon for a patient to get an incorrect positive diagnosis from human error or screening limitations.

Commonly misdiagnosed cancers

Although the standard of care requires providers to rule out the most dangerous diagnoses that can be causing a certain set of symptoms (a process called “differential diagnosis”), cancers are sometimes misdiagnosed because they have symptoms that overlap with other less harmful conditions or diseases. Lung cancer causes more deaths than any other cancer type, but if providers fail to properly engage the differential diagnosis process, it can be mistaken for asthma, pneumonia or COPD.

Doctors in the United States believe that lymphoma, a disease of the body’s immune system, is also commonly misdiagnosed. Lymphoma has symptoms that overlap with COPD, cirrhosis of the liver, the common cold and influenza.

Breast cancer causes the most deaths among women, while X-rays and mammograms fail to detect 16% of cases.

A false-negative can be detrimental to the patient’s health. If a patient thinks the doctor misdiagnosed them, they may look into filing a claim against the doctor or medical system.


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