How Often Do Cancer Misdiagnoses Happen?

Published on Dec 12, 2019 at 7:20 pm in Medical Malpractice.

Stethoscope and pen on paper

When you aren’t feeling well, you trust a doctor to correctly diagnose you so that you can start feeling better. But when it comes to cancer, sometimes that doesn’t happen. Doctors can incorrectly diagnose a patient as having cancer or not having cancer. When this occurs, it’s often labeled as a misdiagnosis or failure to diagnose. A cancer misdiagnosis can lead to severe consequences for a patient. In some cases, they may undergo unnecessary treatment and/or fail to get the correct treatment. This can cause further health complications and side effects that can affect critical functions of the body, like the immune system.

According to the American Cancer Society, cancer is diagnosed by looking at potential cancer cells under a microscope. Doctors will take a small piece of tissue from a lump that they suspect could be cancer. This process is known as a biopsy. The most common sign of cancer is a lump on the body, as reported by the National Cancer Institute. Doctors find the lumps through imaging or physical examination. But most tumors are not cancerous. That’s where a cancer misdiagnosis most often comes in.

How Does Cancer Misdiagnosis Happen?

Some cancers are more frequently misdiagnosed than others because their signs and symptoms make them appear as other diseases and illnesses. For example, lung cancer is often misdiagnosed. Research published by the Diagnostic and Interventional Radiology Journal reports that 90% of misdiagnosis in lung cancer happens because lung lesions are overlooked on chest radiographs.

Other than misreading images, symptoms of lung cancer also appear in lung diseases, and doctors diagnose them as a lung disease rather than cancer. The Moffitt Cancer Center lists pneumonia, asthma, COPD, and acid reflux as some of the other diseases that lung cancer is diagnosed as based on the patient’s symptoms, like shortness of breath and coughing up blood.

The Dangers of Misdiagnoses

The main problems with a cancer misdiagnosis depend on which way it was misdiagnosed. If you were diagnosed with cancer but didn’t actually have cancer, the treatments you received could make you sick. According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), cancer treatments can affect healthy cells, so if you don’t actually have cancer, the treatments can harm your body.

You could experience the normal side effects of chemo like hair loss, nausea, and vomiting, as well as pain. Women and men could even become infertile from cancer treatments, not to mention the emotional toll that the treatments have on patients.

On the other hand, if you were diagnosed with a different disease when you actually had cancer, the lack of treatment could have progressed your condition. Though there aren’t firm numbers to show how cancer worsens without treatment, it can spread to other parts of the body and eventually become untreatable. That’s why early and accurate detection is important, because it could mean earlier treatment after a cancer diagnosis.

You Could Need an Experienced Medical Malpractice Lawyer

A cancer misdiagnosis might leave you feeling helpless and scared. Whether the doctor missed your cancer or mistakenly diagnosed you with cancer, you could be in over your head with treatments that you didn’t need. At Belsky & Horowitz, LLC, we work tirelessly on your med mal case because you already have enough on your plate. Our experienced lawyers will fight to defend your rights so that you can focus on your health. If you need legal support in Baltimore, contact us today so that we can get started on your case.



Fill out the form below about your potential case and a personal injury lawyer will get back to you as quickly as possible.