Why Does Cancer Get Misdiagnosed?

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Although “cancer” is the last thing you want to hear after a visit to a doctor, you do want prompt and effective treatment for the disease if it is found. Getting an accurate and timely diagnosis means receiving the correct treatment for the right condition. Unfortunately, all too frequently, physicians fail to diagnose cancer, only to find out later when the disease has progressed. Many missteps can occur along the way that could lead to a misdiagnosis of cancer and not getting the right treatment in time.

Reasons Why Cancer is Wrongly Diagnosed

Most physicians do not intentionally do harm. They may, however, take shortcuts and make mistakes that could later cost a patient his or her life. In terms of diagnosing cancer, common medical errors healthcare professionals make include:

  • Mistakes in evaluating scans. When reading the results of radiology test, such as an X-ray, MRI, or CT scan, a physician could miss a tumor or other mass. Without proper evaluation, there could be a significant delay in catching cancer.
  • Improperly done tests. Perhaps the patient has a colonoscopy, but their bowels were not properly prepared, thus impeding the doctor from adequately visualizing the necessary anatomy, yet the test was given anyway. If screening examinations are not performed accurately, you won’t receive accurate results.
  • Not taking symptoms seriously. A patient may present with chronic headaches, but the doctor passes it off as stress related. Finally, after several months of complaints, the physician orders an MRI of the brain, only to discover the patient has a brain tumor. All symptoms, innocuous-seeming or not, should be taken seriously by your physician.
  • Failure to obtain a biopsy. Perhaps you had a mole, but your dermatologist did not biopsy it. Later, you find out that the mole was actually a melanoma. As well, you felt a lump in your breast that your physician told you was benign. All irregular masses and other growths should be biopsied and tested for cancer.
  • False positives. In some rarer instances, a person will get diagnosed with cancer when, in fact, they do not have it. It could be the result of a false positive, a mistaken mass on a radiologist’s scan, or other issue. In those cases, the patient could receive unnecessary and sometimes harmful treatment.

Sometimes, the treating physician might not be to blame. The radiology equipment may have been faulty if the technician failed to properly test and maintain the machines. A patient’s test results could get mixed up with someone else’s results. In hurried medical practices that see many patients per day, the number of mistakes increases.

In the most unfortunate instances of cancer misdiagnosis, the patient dies because the diagnosis comes too late for life-saving treatment.

Our Attorneys in Washington D.C. and Baltimore offer comprehensive representation

At Schochor, Federico and Staton, P.A., our medical malpractice lawyers offer Maryland and Washington D.C. residents the chance to seek justice. Contact our offices right away at 410-234-1000 for a consultation. You may also send inquiries through our contact form.