If your doctor incorrectly diagnoses your sinus infection as a cold, probably the worst you’ll have to endure is an extra week of misery until you can get a course of antibiotics that will clear it right up.
The same cannot be said, however, if your doctor swings and misses on a cancer diagnosis. Those weeks without chemotherapy and/or radiation may be the window needed by the cancer cells to metastasize and cause the malignancy to transition to a far less curable stage.
Unfortunately for the patients, delayed cancer diagnoses occur all too frequently. It’s especially common for doctors to miss the signs of colorectal, breast and lung cancer and initially give their patients far more innocuous diagnoses that delay the life-saving treatment they need.
Those three types of cancer comprise nearly 10% of the errors reported by physicians, according to research published in an issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA).
The remaining other cancers together added up to almost another 10% of the total 583 diagnostic errors that were reported in the research study.
One factor stands out from the rest as a factor in these diagnostic delays due to physician error. Failing to do a biopsy after test results showed abnormalities was the No. 1 reason given by the study’s physicians.
It can be intimidating to question your doctors or their diagnoses. But ultimately, you are your own best advocate. If you have a niggling doubt that something is just not right even after your doctor has diagnosed a minor condition that hasn’t resolved, seek a second opinion immediately.
Then, if your condition worsened due to your doctor’s diagnostic errors, you may decide to seek legal remedies for their negligence.