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Why do doctors sometimes misdiagnose cancer?

On Behalf of | Feb 16, 2022 | Cancer Misdiagnosis

People without an advanced medical education depend upon the expertise of doctors to catch diseases such as cancer in time to be able to treat them. It is tragic when someone thinks that they have a relatively minor condition, and only finds out later that the diagnosing doctor made a mistake, and that the disease is actually a form of cancer. When these corrections happen months or years after the initial diagnosis, it can sometimes be too late. What causes doctors to make such costly mistakes?

Negligence or carelessness

Doctors see a lot of patients during their workday. Sometimes they have a momentary lapse in their attention, and things that they should have noticed escape them. Other times they act negligently, and grossly deviate from the standard of care of their profession by doing things that no reasonable doctor would do.

These are the types of cases that give rise to medical malpractice lawsuits. For example, if your doctor misdiagnosed your cancer due to negligence, but just about any reasonably capable doctor would have recognized it for what it was, then you may have an excellent chance of winning a malpractice suit against them.

Diseases with similar symptoms

Occasionally, a misdiagnosis occurs regardless of a doctor’s utmost care. There are certain conditions and diseases that have nearly identical symptoms to some types of cancer, and even a well-meaning and attentive doctor may accidentally mistake one disease for the other.

For example, there are many gastrointestinal conditions that have similar symptoms to colon cancer, such as irritable bowel syndrome or ulcerative colitis. Breast cancer can sometimes be mistaken for a severe case of mastitis.

However, just because an initial diagnosis was reasonable does not mean that the doctor is off the hook. They may still be liable for malpractice if they do not identify the disease as it develops and correct their diagnosis when most other doctors would have done so.

For most forms of cancer, the earlier treatment begins, the higher the likelihood that the victim will be able to recover. A misdiagnosis is devastating because it robs the victim of precious time that could have been used to treat the disease. Such a misdiagnosis is all the more tragic when it is the result of a doctor’s inexcusable neglect and carelessness.