Williams, Walsh & O'Connor, LLC

How often do cancer misdiagnoses occur?

Symptoms rarely are unique to a single medical condition, but instead can be associated with a variety of illnesses. Unless a doctor asks enough probing questions in an attempt to distinguish between whether a patient is suffering from one condition or another, then it's possible that they'll assign the wrong diagnosis. This can result in the wrong tests being ordered or harmful medications being prescribed.

According to a study published by the Institute of Medicine in September 2015, as many as one in every 20 adults may receive a missed, wrong or delayed diagnosis. The report's authors also argued that as much as 10 percent of patient fatalities are caused by diagnostic errors. The conditions most apt to be improperly diagnosed include pulmonary embolisms, heart attacks, strokes and cancer.

Data published in the Journal of the American Medical Association several years ago reflected that 4.5 percent of doctors readily admitted to making diagnostic errors. Of those cases, at least 10 percent related to cancer. Some of the most commonly misdiagnosed cancers were found to be the colorectal, lung and breast cancers. These specific types accounted for at least 10 percent of all delayed cancer diagnoses.

In the self-reported study, doctors admitted that their failure to order a biopsy of suspect tissue after testing came back abnormal was the primary reason for their delayed diagnoses.

While a cancer misdiagnosis does not always result in severe consequences, if an undiagnosed cancer is allowed to spread, it can become increasingly more difficult to treat. A patient who receives a delayed cancer diagnosis may endure significant pain, body disfigurement or die if their treatment is withheld from them for too long.

If you suspect that you or loved one's delayed or incorrect diagnosis could have been avoided, then you may benefit from having a New Haven medical malpractice attorney review your case to see if this indeed occurred.

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