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Is Cancer Misdiagnosis Common?

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Misdiagnosis of cancer is a mistake that can have life-altering consequences. A cancer misdiagnosis can be either a failure to recognize that a patient has cancer or an incorrect diagnosis of cancer when the patient has none. Both kinds of misdiagnosis can be incredibly harmful and in some cases even fatal. Studies estimate the rate of total cancer misdiagnoses at around 11 percent, with certain types of cancer misdiagnosed at a rate much higher than that.

Hearing from your doctor that you have cancer can be devastating, but finding out that it could have been diagnosed earlier or that your cancer diagnosis was wrong is even worse. Everyone makes mistakes including experienced doctors, nurses, and technicians. But when a mistake happens because of negligence and the results harm the patient, it may be classified as medical malpractice.

How Is Cancer Diagnosed?

To understand cancer misdiagnosis, it is essential to know how doctors look for it to arrive at a diagnosis. Doctors use many kinds of routine screenings and tests for early detection. Common cancer screening tests include:

  • Biopsy
  • Colonoscopy
  • Endoscopy
  • Electrocardiogram (EKG)
  • Mammogram
  • Pap test
  • Prostate exam
  • Imaging tests

These standard tests should be performed regularly, usually bi-annually, unless the patient has a higher risk factor. Specific segments of the population are more at risk for certain types of cancer. Doctors should be aware of this and order tests to be performed on such patients either earlier than is standard or more frequently. Doctors should also order tests immediately when patients exhibit key signs or symptoms of possible cancer. Failure to do so can mean loss of precious time for treatment if early-stage cancer is allowed to progress.

What Are the Most Commonly Misdiagnosed Forms of Cancer?

Some forms of cancer are more commonly misdiagnosed than others, although mistakes can be made in diagnosing any type of cancer. Some cancers are rare enough that a practitioner may not have experience dealing with the signs and symptoms. Other cancers have symptoms that can be easily mistaken for other similar disease, such as lung cancer and mesothelioma, which both have symptoms similar to tuberculosis.

The following is a list of cancers that are most commonly misdiagnosed:

  • Breast cancer
  • Childhood thyroid cancer
  • Colorectal cancer
  • Lung cancer
  • Lymphoma
  • Melanoma
  • Mesothelioma
  • Pancreatic cancer
  • Rare cancers

When Does a Misdiagnosis Rise to the Level of Medical Malpractice?

Bringing a claim for a cancer misdiagnosis is more complex than a run-of-the-mill personal injury case. You must have a skilled attorney with experience in medical malpractice cases who can build a strong compensation claim. In Ohio, you will bear the burden of showing not only that the doctor should have known about your medical condition but failed to recognize it. Additionally, you must prove that your harm resulted directly from the misdiagnosis.

Recognizing and Preventing Misdiagnosis

A cancer misdiagnosis can cause needless suffering and emotional strain. While you want to be able to trust your doctor, you also need to be proactive about your health. Listening to your instincts and watching out for the following warning signs can help you prevent a misdiagnosis of your illness.

  • Failure to obtain a full family medical history. Genetics plays a huge role in determining the risk of cancer. If your doctor did not ask for and record your family medical history, significant information is missing from your medical record.
  • Failure to utilize all available diagnostic tests. Your doctor should do a thorough investigation using every tool possible before declaring that you do or do not have cancer.
  • Failure to listen. If your doctor ignores or glosses over your concerns and comments or is not interested in answering your questions, they may miss symptoms that flag a severe condition. It is also a problem if you feel your doctor is underestimating the seriousness of your cancer.
  • Rushed appointments. If your doctor is not spending enough time with you or does not seem to be “present” during your appointments, you should change providers.

Symptoms that do not improve could indicate that your doctor is not providing the correct treatment, especially if your symptoms are worsening.

With any serious medical condition, including cancer, it is a good idea to get a second opinion. In situations where your doctor does not specialize in the type of cancer you have been diagnosed with, your doctor cannot determine the type of cancer you have, or how much it has spread, or if you have a very rare cancer, you should seek out medical help and a second opinion from the best specialist available to you.

It can be helpful for your treatment and crucial for any future legal action that you keep good records of your doctor appointments and pathology reports. Try to document everything possible, including your symptoms, medications, treatments, tests with the dates and times, what your doctor said to you, and how you felt. Save all your bills, correspondence with health insurance companies, and receipts for out-of-pocket expenses. If you have been misdiagnosed, your lawyer can use all this information to support your compensation case.

Talk to a Dayton Medical Malpractice Lawyer at Wright & Schulte LLC Today About Your Cancer Misdiagnosis

If your cancer was misdiagnosed, you may be a victim of medical malpractice. To schedule a free consultation with an experienced Dayton medical malpractice lawyer at Wright & Schulte LLC, call 937-222-7477 or complete our online form. Located in Dayton, Ohio, we serve clients in Cincinnati, Columbus, Cleveland, Centerville, Toledo, Youngstown, and Miamisburg.