Why Are Misdiagnosis and Delayed Diagnosis So Harmful?
When cancer is misdiagnosed or when a proper diagnosis is delayed, patient outcomes suffer. That’s because it’s so important to catch cancer early.
A landmark analysis of missed diagnosis and delayed diagnosis in the Journal of the American Medical Association’s (“JAMA”) Archives of Internal Medicine found that more medical errors related to cancer than any other disease. One-half of those errors were attributable to lung, breast, and colorectal cancers.
Here are the most common errors, as reported in the JAMA analysis:
- Failing to consider a diagnosis;
- Failing to order needed tests;
- Making mistakes in reading test results;
- Assuming another possible diagnosis;
- Not timely ordering follow-up testing after an abnormal test result;
- Not timely asking about an important aspect of patient or family history;
- Delaying or failing to recognize a critical piece of information in a physical exam;
- Not reporting a lab or radiology test result to a doctor;
- Making a mistake in interpreting a lab or radiology test; and
- Making technical errors in lab or radiology testing.
Other significant errors include not referring patients to specialists, misinterpreting physical exams and patient history information, failing to order necessary lab and radiology testing, and being indifferent to the urgency of a patient’s condition or potential complications of the condition.
Doctors are not the only ones who commit medical errors: physician assistants, nurses, and even support staff can commit errors that harm patients and worsen their outcomes.
The Committee on Diagnostic Error in Health Care recently called diagnostic errors a “blind spot” in our country’s health care system. That Committee found that diagnostic errors contribute to about 10 percent of deaths every year.
What Types of Cancer Are Most Often Misdiagnosed?
Top doctors in the nation know that cancers are often misdiagnosed. In a recent survey, they estimated that the following cancers were most often misdiagnosed or mischaracterized:
- Breast cancer;
- Cancer of unknown primary site;
- Brain and central nervous system cancer;
- Lung cancer;
- Prostate cancer;
- Ovarian cancer; and
- Pancreatic cancer.
In the CDC’s recent ranking of state cancer rates, Pennsylvania ranked 12th in the nation, with a cancer incidence rate of 516.3 for every 100,000 people. And Pennsylvanians have a higher than average death rate in almost every category of cancer, including lung and bronchus, female breast, colorectal, pancreatic, ovarian, leukemia, non-Hodgkin lymphoma, and corpus and uterine cancers. The American Cancer Society estimates that 28,640 people will die from cancer in Pennsylvania in 2015.
Even though a cancer misdiagnosis or delayed diagnosis may have worsened your prognosis or that of a loved one, there’s something you can do. You can hold medical professionals accountable, so they understand that pain, suffering, and death-inducing errors won’t be tolerated any more.
What Can I Do About My Cancer Diagnosis?
A cancer diagnosis disrupts your whole existence. You’re in pain and you can’t get around like you did before you were sick. You may not be able to get around at all. Medical bills are stacking up, you may not be able to work, and you’re worried about how you will provide for yourself and your family. You’re angry because the health care system let you down in a way that cannot be fixed. You may have even come to the realization that you are likely to die soon. And now you’re learning, maybe for the first time, how much harm misdiagnosis does to patients afflicted with the horrible condition of cancer.
Our health care delivery system is broken. But you can help fix it. You can help those who work in the medical profession understand the profound impact of their errors. You can help ensure that others will not suffer needlessly from misdiagnosis of life-threatening cancer. And you can help prevent needless deaths. In doing all of this, you can ease the financial burden on you and your family for the injustice you’ve suffered.
Cancer misdiagnosis and delayed diagnosis do irreparable harm to their victims, whose prognosis has become dim due to no fault of their own. Contact us today to discuss your cancer case with a caring, experienced lawyer who can help evaluate your options. Your initial consultation is free, and you don’t pay anything if we don’t win your case.