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We Have the Medical Technology, but Not Always the Right Answers

By Hardwick & Pendergast, P.S. on June 15, 2018

It’s a sad truth, but cancer misdiagnoses are still a huge cause of medical malpractice claims in the United States today. National research studies claim that fewer than 2% of people get a misdiagnosis from a hospital pathology laboratory test for cancer. That may seem like a tiny percentage, but 1.3 million Americans receive a diagnosis of cancer every year. This means that a 1.2 percent error rate on cancer lab tests could equal about 14,300 incorrect results.

Not to mention that path lab testing is usually the last step in diagnosis, after X-rays and other imaging and blood tests. We don’t have figures for how many cases of cancer are missed in these earlier screenings, but there are thousands.

How is it possible that in 2018, with all our technological advances, we are still getting misdiagnosed?

According to Dr. Otis Brawley, an expert in prostate cancer test screening, reviewing biopsies tends to be a “very subjective mission in which six pathologists may look at the same tissue sample and each comes up with a different answer on whether it is cancer or not, or the stage of the cancer.” He also added that the most widespread misdiagnosis problem is mislabeling or putting results in the wrong patient file.

The physical and emotional damage that occurs from a cancer misdiagnosis can be life-altering. A faulty diagnosis can lead to unnecessary surgery or radiation, or no treatment at all where treatment is vital for survival.

Faulty Diagnosis

There are many reasons for a faulty diagnosis, and if you have been diagnosed with cancer, always insist on getting a second opinion from an expert pathologist. Here are three of the most common reasons for an incorrect cancer diagnosis:

  • Lab error
  • Doctor error
  • Patient weight

Doctors are subject to a standard of care that they must follow. Within that STANDARD OF CARE, there are many different tests that they may need to perform in order to get an accurate cancer diagnosis, including:

  • Biopsy
  • Blood test
  • Pap smear
  • MRI
  • CT scan
  • PET scan
  • Mammogram
  • Ultrasound
  • X-ray
  • Colonoscopy

Malpractice generally occurs when a physician either delays the diagnosis, or misinterprets data. It also happens when a doctor doesn’t conduct a proper examination, doesn’t perform the necessary tests, fails to take an action, or fails to refer the patient to the appropriate specialist for more examination.

The Weight Issue

Another phenomenon connected with medical misdiagnoses is weight, and a physician’s refusal to look past it. Miss Rebecca Hiles was looking to explain her bloody coughing fits since she was 17. For five years, doctors told her she was simply “too fat” and that if she lost weight her coughing issues would be solved. It wasn’t until a coughing fit landed her in the ER that she got a real diagnosis: a tumor in her bronchial tube, which forced the doctors to remove her entire left lung. A surgery that could and should have been avoided had she gotten a proper diagnosis and treatment right from the start.

Miss Hiles’ case is not the tragic anomaly we hope it should be. In fact, time and time again it has been proven that overweight people do not get the same standard of care as people in the normal weight range. A study which asked 122 doctors about their attitudes towards plus-size patients discovered the shocking truth. It showed that doctors pay less attention to heavier people because they assume any health ailments can be explained by the patients’ weight. In the study, the doctors “reported that seeing patients was a greater waste of their time the heavier that they were, that physicians would like their jobs less as their patients increased in size, that heavier patients were viewed to be more annoying, and that physicians felt less patience the heavier the patient was.”

One in three Americans is obese, and the rates are continuing to grow. This is why the healthcare system should be more adequately prepared to deal with heavier patients. There are many difficulties that heavy people face in the medical world, from lack of scales and big enough MRI machines to medicine that has not been calibrated for a larger weight. However, being overweight should never prevent someone from getting an adequate health diagnosis.

When Cancer Misdiagnosis Is Medical Malpractice

Every day hundreds of Americans get the terrifying diagnosis of cancer. However, not all of them are correct. This should be good news, but in many cases where unnecessary treatment or surgery has been performed, it is mental as well as physical anguish. In other cases, a delayed diagnoses of cancer can make a previously treatable disease all but incurable.

If your cancer has been misdiagnosed due to a negligent doctor or lab, it’s important that you understand your legal rights. For more information, contact the Seattle medical malpractice attorneys at Hardwick & Pendergast, P.S. Call (888) 228-3860 today.

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