Sources: Best Doctors and the National Coalition on Health Care Joint Study; American Journal of Medicine; BMJ Quality and Saftey

Physician Malpractice CancerCancer is diagnosed more commonly than most physicians, themselves are aware.  A series of recently published studies indicate a misdiagnosis rate from 15% to 28% of the time. There are a number of reasons cited by medical professionals for this seemingly high rate of misdiagnosis for cancer:  Among these are:  fragmented medical records; time-strapped doctors simply not having enough time with patients; errors in pathology interpretation; patients not knowing or sharing important pieces of their family medical history; and an inflexible adherence to protocols.  In addition to the number of lost and damaged lives, there are considerable financial costs associated with a high misdiagnosis rate. $700 Billion dollars are estimated to be wasted by the US Medical System each year– countless billions of which are from diagnostic error.

Over 1.6 million new cancer cases in the U.S. are projected to occur in 2013, according to the American Cancer Society.  Some 400 pathologists, medical oncologists and surgical oncologists were polled to determine their awareness of the relative rate of cancer misdiagnosis.  When participating doctors were asked how often they would estimate misdiagnoses rates in oncology, the majority (60.5%) estimated 0 to 10% of the time. Only 4.8% believed misdiagnoses occur 20-30% of the time.  These numbers counter published studies which show misdiagnosis rates in general reaching up to 28%, and  up to 44% for some types of cancer, according to the Journal of Clinical Oncology. This lack of physician awareness is also concerning.

When asked what types of cancer conditions physicians believe are most often misdiagnosed or mischaracterized, 21 conditions were named. Leading the top five misdiagnosed cancer conditions by a considerable margin was Lymphoma, followed by Breast Cancer, Sarcomas and Melanoma.

Does this mean that all cancer misdiagnosis is the result of medical malpractice by a physician? No.  However the number is too large to attribute the rate of misdiagnosis to exemplary medical care in all circumstances.  So what does this mean for you, the patient?  Be your own health care advocate.  Insist on follow up testing if you feel that something is being treated lightly or may be overlooked.  If physicians who specialize in the recognition and treatment of cancer are unaware of how frequently it is misdiagnosed, they might not be so quick to find it.

The Lewis Law Firm has a history of representing women who are diagnosed late with breast cancer.  If you are in Philadelphia or New Jersey and you or a loved one have been diagnosed with breast cancer contact the Lewis Law firm today for a FREE consultation.