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Cancer misdiagnosis more common than doctors realize

Misdiagnosis is one of the leading causes of preventable medical error that occur in the United States each year. While some medical mistakes or failures in diagnosis may be benign, others are very serious. This is especially true when it comes to the misdiagnosis or failure to diagnose certain cancers. Maryland readers may find the following blog on medical malpractice and the misdiagnosis of cancer in the U.S. interesting.

A recent study produced by the National Coalition on Health Care showed a large disconnect between the prevalence of misdiagnosis among cancer patients and what cancer specialists think the rate of misdiagnosis among patients is. Specifically, research indicates that the number of misdiagnoses may be as high as 30 percent. However, of a survey 400 specialists most thought that misdiagnosis occurred in fewer than 10 percent of cases.

Misdiagnosis is a complicated subject, but it is also a very important subject. In some cases, the failure to diagnose a medical condition can have grave consequences. In fact, in the case of cancer, for example, a missed or delayed diagnosis may mean that the cancer progresses to an advanced stage thereby reducing the likelihood of recovery. When this occurs it can result in feelings of betrayal and anger among patients.

Arguably, if doctors were more aware of the high rate of misdiagnoses that actually takes place, they might be more cautious. Of course, there are many reasons for a misdiagnosis. From poor protocols to overconfident or complacent physicians to unreliable equipment, whether or not an oversight rises to the level of a medical malpractice claim for purposes of recovering damages is going to rest in the specific facts of a given case.

Source: The New York Times, "Missing a Cancer Diagnosis," Susan Gubar, Jan. 2, 2014

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