Everyone makes mistakes—even at work. That includes doctors too. While most of us might think of those stories about doctors operating on the wrong knee or leaving a sponge inside a patient, only to be found years later, doctors also misdiagnose patient illnesses. Sometimes, that can cause life-altering consequences, even death.
Earlier this year, researchers from John Hopkins University wanted to narrow down what conditions were most misdiagnosed and also were most likely to lead to death or disability. What they found is that one-third of medical errors that led to death and disability were linked to cancer.
Cancers that go misdiagnosed
Of those cases, the cancers that were most often misdiagnosed were the following:
- Lung cancer
- Skin cancer
- Prostate cancer
- Breast cancer
What initial diagnosis might include
In each of these cancers, doctors sometimes mistake patient’s symptoms for being something else. For example, with lung cancer, it can be diagnosed as a lung abscess or bronchial pneumonia. For skin cancer, seemingly benign moles end up as deadly melanomas.
For prostate cancer, the most common type of cancer for men in the United States, its symptoms sometimes are mistaken for bladder cancer. So those who experience pain or burning while urinating or blood in urine should be checked for both prostate and bladder cancer.
For women, breast cancer can be mistaken as cysts, fibroids, fibrocystic breast disease or fat necrosis. In each of these other conditions, hard lumps or cysts in the breasts are present, but benign.
Lung cancer can be visible on x-rays, noted by the radiologist but missed or ignored by the ordering doctor, leaving the patient without a diagnosis or treatment until it is too late.
The value of a second opinion
Because of the chances of misdiagnosis, patients always should take an active role in their health care. Part of that is seeking a second opinion, especially if your symptoms could be an indicator of cancer but weren’t diagnosed as that.
Also, if you are diagnosed with any type of cancer, you should seek a second opinion. You want to make sure your diagnosis is correct. You want the best treatment plan to effectively treat your cancer.
If you or a loved one end up suffering life-altering consequences of a cancer misdiagnosis or a delayed diagnosis, that could be medical malpractice. You should consult an experienced medical malpractice attorney in that case so you and your family can receive the compensation you are entitled to.