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The details of misdiagnosis

With the devastating effects cancer can have on the body, a proper and timely diagnosis can make the difference between life or death. Washington, as well as the rest of the United States, does not hold all doctors accountable for misdiagnosis. In order to prove a diagnosis error, patients must prove that the doctor was negligent when he or she should have detected the illness, or show that the doctor properly diagnosed the illness but failed to provide adequate care.

The New York Times covers one corner of the all-too-frequent occurrence of cancer diagnosis errors. Reports show that many patients are fearful they may choose inefficient oncologists and surgeons, whether that inefficiency stems from lack of training, negligence or other type of medical misstep. A large majority of patients have a growing mistrust in the health system because of the common occurrence of cancer misdiagnosis, and since the disease can prove difficult to treat, most individuals must make appointments with multiple doctors. Generally, cancer patients must receive treatment from surgeons and specialists in radiation and chemotherapy. Properly diagnosing cancer can be extremely difficult, and often requires a series of appointments involving biopsies, insurance and therapy sessions.

The overwhelming number of cancer cases in the United States is enough cause for concern, but Boston magazine points out that misdiagnosis is more common than one might initially think. A joint study between the medical review organization Best Doctors and the National Coalition on Health Care reveals that 60.5 percent of doctors surveyed believe that cancer misdiagnosis rates are between zero and 10 percent, when in reality that rate is a tragic 28 percent. The study also showed that the types of cancer with the highest rates of misdiagnosis are lymphoma, breast cancer, sarcomas, melanomas and cancer of an unknown site.      

       

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