Reasons for Misdiagnosis

Cancer misdiagnosis is a subject of constant medical observation and study. Data reveals that cancer misdiagnosis can occur at an unusually high rate. According to the Journal of Clinical Oncology, cancer misdiagnosis occurs in up to 44 percent of cases. Due to the frequency of cancer misdiagnosis, it is important for doctors and patients to remain aware of the patient’s symptoms. When treatment for a certain condition is ineffective, patients are encouraged to consult one or more doctors who specialize in the bodily system that is most affected by the patient’s observable symptoms.

Human Error in Cancer Misdiagnosis

Cancer misdiagnosis can result from accidental error on the part of doctors and patients. Cancer misdiagnosis may also occur from the negligence, incompetence, or inexperience of the patient’s treating physician. These cases are often identified as medical malpractice. When patients experience physical, emotional, or financial harm from doctor error, they may be able to file a medical malpractice lawsuit against the doctor.

Doctor Error in Cancer Misdiagnosis

Cancer misdiagnosis, delayed diagnosis, or complete failure to diagnose can occur when a doctor fails to investigate or recognize certain symptoms in a cancer patient. This may occur when the doctor fails to look for certain symptoms or ask the patient to discuss potential symptoms which may be typical in certain cases of cancer. Doctor error may also occur during the cancer testing process.

Doctor error may contribute to cancer misdiagnosis in the following ways:

  • Failure to order appropriate tests
  • Failure to provide adequate follow-up or specialist referral
  • Providing untimely follow-up or additional testing
  • Improperly interpreting test results or laboratory recommendations
  • Conducting incorrect testing or failing to properly conduct certain testing
  • Improperly collecting or preserving cell samples for testing such as biopsies


Patient Error in Cancer Misdiagnosis

Additionally, the patient may also contribute to cancer misdiagnosis. This can occur when patients fail to properly recognize or communicate certain signs and symptoms that may be experienced from cancer. In many cases, the treating doctor may have no other means of identifying certain telltale cancer symptoms. For this reason, it is crucial for all medical patients to remain aware and vigilant of any bodily changes they may experience.

Other Cancer Misdiagnosis Theories

A number of other theories exist to explain how cancer is misdiagnosed. Cancer misdiagnosis is believed to often occur from a general lack of cancer data or knowledge. Many experts believe that cancer misdiagnosis may also stem from a physician’s tendency to rigidly rely on evidence-based medicine. Due to the varying and uncertain nature of cancer, scientific data indicating the presence or absence of cancer can be misleading in certain contexts.

Faulty Equipment in Cancer Misdiagnosis

Testing and diagnosis equipment can play a role in cancer misdiagnosis. This may occur when a specific type of test fails to indicate the presence of abnormal cells from a patient’s tissue sample. Diagnostic equipment such as X-rays and magnetic resonance imagining (MRI) technology may fail to indicate evidence of cancer in the patient.

Lack of Knowledge in Cancer Misdiagnosis

In some cases, cancer misdiagnosis may occur despite appropriate and timely action from all parties. This is primarily due to the nature of cancer and an underlying lack of cancer knowledge in medical practice. For example, some forms of cancer cannot be identified using cancer testing that has proven sufficient for diagnosing other forms of cancer. While significant past and present research continues to discover advancements in the understanding of cancer, considerable information is still unknown.

Preventing Cancer Misdiagnosis

While there’s no set plan of action for preventing all cancer misdiagnosis cases, doctors and patients can take steps to reduce its chances of occurrence. Many believe that cancer misdiagnosis should be more firmly emphasized and educated in the medical setting. More careful cancer data analysis, new systems for data collection and interpretation, and increased observation of past misdiagnosis cases may all help to reduce widespread cancer misdiagnosis.

Patient’s Role in Preventing Misdiagnosis

Patients can help reduce cancer misdiagnosis by taking charge of their health. This can be difficult, as many cancer patients have little to no significant physical changes until the cancer becomes advanced and harder to treat. For this reason, self-awareness is mandatory. Patients should note any changes they experience. Taking physical notes is a recommended method of documenting new potential symptoms and how they may evolve or progress. When cancer becomes a suspected cause of bodily changes, this documentation can provide critical insight for doctors.




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