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How Common Are Delayed or Missed Cancer Diagnoses?

Missed Cancer Diagnosis

Patients and families who have received a late or incorrect cancer diagnosis may have many natural and pressing questions, including, “Does this happen to others?”

Even though there is no consensus on the exact figure, studies and surveys indicate that this type of tragedy occurs often in New York State and throughout the country.

If the misdiagnosis was caused by negligence on a medical professional’s part, it may be grounds for asserting a medical malpractice claim. Thus, if you or a loved one was misdiagnosed, it is advisable to not let the matter rest. You should speak with an attorney who can help you uncover who was responsible for your misdiagnosis.

How Often Do Doctors Miss Cancer Diagnoses?

How Often Do Doctors Miss Cancer Diagnoses?

It is difficult to track the frequency of missed cancer diagnoses with any real certainty. Yet, many studies have been conducted to try and answer this question.

For instance, one study in The American Journal of Medicine found the misdiagnosis rate to be 15 percent, while another one published in BMJ Quality and Safety estimated it to be at 28 percent.

However, those studies did not take into account the perspective of physicians themselves, who have unique insight into how often and why misdiagnoses occur.

They also did not investigate the rate of cancer misdiagnoses specifically, which is of particular interest, since there will be a projected 1,658,370 new cancer cases in 2015 in the U.S.

In 2012, the National Coalition on Healthcare (along with Best Doctors) conducted a survey of medical professionals to try fill in these gaps. They found that physicians believe the most commonly misdiagnosed cancers are:

Types of cancers

Unfortunately, researchers also found that physicians tend to underestimate the rate of misdiagnosis. The majority of doctors believed that diagnostic errors in cancer cases only occur between zero and 10% of the time. However, for some types of cancers, the actual independently-estimated misdiagnosis rate runs up to 44 percent. Only 1.5 percent of respondents believed that doctors misdiagnose at that high of a rate.

Why Do Doctors Misdiagnose Cancer?

Why Do Doctors Misdiagnose Cancer?

There are a multitude of reasons why a doctor might misdiagnose cancer. For one thing, they may be overconfident. It stands to reason that if doctors believe they rarely make misdiagnoses – as the 2012 study indicates – they won’t be on the lookout for common errors. This compounds the problem.

In the 2012 study, doctors themselves cited several possible reasons for why cancer misdiagnoses occur. The most common cause they pointed to was missing or fragmented information in medical information systems. In other words, if they cannot access complete and accurate information about a cancer patient, it is hard for doctors to make the best possible diagnosis.

Some doctors also believed that greater transparency within the hospital system could lead to fewer cancer misdiagnoses. They suggested treating misdiagnosis as a public health issue and creating legislation and public policy to address it.

For instance, hospitals could be provided with incentives for hospitals to gather better data on misdiagnoses or to implement better reporting systems within hospitals.

Doctors also believed that poor or unavailable pathology tools (such as genetic testing and radiology resources) are sometimes to blame. This is because interpretation of patients’ pathology requires frequent updates.

Nearly half of the surveyed doctors also cited a lack of sub-specialty knowledge among pathologists, suggesting that perhaps the field of pathology may be “over-generalized.”

A smaller proportion of doctors felt that not enough time was devoted to patient consultation, especially remote consultation.

Have You Been Impacted by a Delayed or Missed Cancer Diagnosis?

Clearly, missed cancer diagnoses are a serious problem in the U.S. – even if some doctors do not realize it.

We seek medical attention when something is wrong with our bodies. We have the right to expect the utmost care and diligence from our healthcare providers.

Being a cancer patient is difficult enough as it is — the last thing a patient needs is to experience a delay in being diagnosed or to get an entirely incorrect diagnosis.

The law protects patients who have suffered pain, psychological damage and increased medical costs due to a missed or delayed cancer diagnosis. When a medical professional makes an error that is so severe and careless to be an act of negligence, that person may be held responsible for medical malpractice.

If you believe that you or a loved one was the victim of a delayed or missed cancer diagnosis, you should speak with a knowledgeable lawyer immediately.

At Powers & Santola, LLP, our lawyers have extensive experience with misdiagnosis cases in New York State and beyond. We know how to dig deep for evidence and build a strong case. We are also fully committed to improving the lives of our clients.

We can help you to negotiate the daunting process of going against a hospital in a medical malpractice case. We will support you at every step of the way.

Contact us today for a free initial consultation. Even if you are unsure of whether a misdiagnosis occurred, it can only benefit you to get more information.


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