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Why diagnostic errors are common when people have cancer

On Behalf of | Apr 18, 2024 | Medical Malpractice

Unfortunately, the diagnostic process can be quite challenging, even when people have very serious medical issues. It is more common than people might realize for healthcare professionals to make oversights when attempting to diagnose someone.

Cancer is a top cause of death in the United States and one of the most debilitating medical conditions a person could experience. Oftentimes, someone’s prognosis largely depends on how quickly they receive treatment. The sad reality is that many doctors fail to diagnose cancer in a timely fashion. Why are diagnostic errors so common when people have cancer?

Early symptoms are relatively generic

One of the main reasons that cancer can be difficult to diagnose is that cancer often starts with relatively common symptoms. People experience fatigue or low levels of body pain. They may lose weight or find themselves with very little energy.

Different types of cancer may produce different symptoms, but even those symptoms can be generic. Doctors might mistake the cough that accompanies lung cancer as a sign of a cold or might believe incorrectly that the rash caused by lymphoma is actually a case of scabies. Rushing to the easiest conclusion instead of ruling out cancer is a common diagnostic mistake.

Doctors don’t always listen to patients

Another reason it can be difficult to obtain an accurate cancer diagnosis is a physician’s bias or inattention. Some patients, including women, may find that doctors are less likely to believe their self-reported symptoms. Other times, a patient does not have an opportunity to convey their experience to a doctor in full because the doctor interrupts them when they begin describing their symptoms.

The sad reality is that a diagnostic failure related to cancer can drastically affect someone’s prognosis. Their chance of a full recovery diminishes as the cancer progresses. The least invasive treatment options may no longer be the best choice if the cancer spreads to other body parts or develops past the earliest stages of growth.

Filing a medical malpractice lawsuit can help people cover treatment costs and lost wages that result from a delayed cancer diagnosis. Patients who recognize that a delay in diagnosis might be malpractice can take appropriate legal action over a possibly alarming medical failure.