When Cancer is Misdiagnosed
Correctly diagnosing medical conditions is vital for the appropriate management and treatment of the illness. When physicians miss a diagnosis, the resulting consequences can prove deadly for the patient. Unfortunately, misdiagnoses commonly occur within the medical community. This is especially true for various types of cancer. According to a report in Boston Magazine, an estimated 28 percent of cancer incidents go undiagnosed. Lymphoma is reportedly the most common misdiagnosed type, followed by breast cancer and sarcomas, which are tumors within certain bodily tissues.
When doctors were asked about the reasons for these incidents, they reportedly gave several:
- Incomplete medical information within patient charts and medical information systems;
- Lack of genetic information at the time of diagnosis; and
- Inadequate resources for pathology diagnostics.
Overburdened health care systems were also listed in the article as an explanation, along with doctors who are strapped for time with their patients.
When cancer diagnoses are missed, a valuable window of opportunity for treatment is possibly missed as well. This is can cause the disease to spread and worsen, even beyond any possibility of treatment. Misdiagnoses can also work in the opposite direction. Other medical conditions are often mistakenly diagnosed as cancer. This unfortunate situation may result in unnecessary treatments for the patient, some of which may become painful, with disturbing side effects. Additionally, while doctors are treating the misdiagnosed cancer, the real illness is going untreated and possibly worsening.
Fixing the Problem
The Boston Magazine article includes suggestions for fixing this important health issue. When asked about the issue, doctors reportedly gave several suggestions for dealing with the problem:
- Improved and innovative pathology tools;
- Increased resources for genetic testing of tumors;
- Better radiology resources; and
- More data and research about the prevalence of misdiagnoses.
John Rother is the president of the National Coalition of Health Care. He is quoted in the article as stating, “Not enough is being done on the state and federal policy end of things to acknowledge and firmly address this critical issue. Given our current healthcare climate and challenges, as decision-makers become more aware of the frequency of misdiagnosis and the enormous costs associated with it, they have a sizeable opportunity to make diagnostic accuracy much more of a ‘front and center’ issue in health care.
When cancer is wrongly diagnosed, the results can prove painful and even deadly. Patients rely on medical professionals to correctly determine the cause of their medical problems, and doctors owe a duty of knowledge and professionalism to their patients. When that duty is breached, the physician may be held liable for the physical, mental and financial burdens of the patient. Proving a misdiagnosis involves the presentation of substantial medical evidence and industry standards. These cases can prove difficult and the intricate details of these medical malpractice cases are best handled by an experienced lawyer.