If there’s one sentiment that doctors often repeat about cancer, it’s that early detection is key. Any delay in diagnosis means that a patient’s prognosis will decline. You should know how common it is for cancer to be misdiagnosed as something else and which cancers doctors misdiagnose the most.
How common are diagnostic errors with cancer?
A recent study published in the Journal of Clinical Oncology captured how doctors misdiagnose cancer 28% of the time. About 44% of those cases involve certain four specific varieties of cancer: Colorectal, breast, pancreatic and lung.
Why do diagnostic errors with cancer occur?
There are a variety of reasons for delayed or misdiagnoses, including miscommunication between patients and doctors about the patient’s genetic risks or symptoms, tight schedules that make it difficult for doctors to be careful or take the time they need with each patient’s assessment, testing errors (whether the wrong test is run or the test results are just misinterpreted) and other issues.
Physicians are often quick to write off stomach pain and other related symptoms patients experience as hemorrhoids, ulcerative colitis or inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) when patients have colorectal cancer. Doctors are often quick to do the same with patients undergoing pancreatitis, gallstone or IBD symptoms or those who have diabetes instead of diagnosing them with pancreatic cancer.
It’s also not uncommon for doctors to write a patient’s breast cancer concerns off as fibrocystic breast disease or a non-cancerous cyst, even though 12.5% of women will receive cancer diagnoses in their lifetime.
Patients who have shortness of breath, wheeze or cough may receive tuberculosis, pneumonia or other respiratory diagnoses if doctors fail to perform the necessary testing to confirm what ails them.
What can you do if you received the wrong diagnosis?
Most of us trust our doctors to look out for our best interests. A mistake when it comes to a cancer diagnosis can leave you with a poorer chance to overcome your disease or a reduced quality of life. You can learn more about how the law allows you to recover compensation for your doctors’ negligence and your losses. An experienced attorney can help.