Advances in medicine mean that getting a cancer diagnosis is not the death sentence it was even 20 years ago. A key element in survival rates, however, is an early diagnosis. Even patients with otherwise fatal conditions, such as lung, uterine and colorectal cancer, can add years to their life span if treatments begin aggressively, before the disease spreads. Unfortunately, cancer symptoms are often subtle and easy to miss, and medical malpractice involving delayed diagnosis is common.
Medical Misdiagnosis Can Prove Deadly
Recent studies by researchers at Johns Hopkins University indicate that medical mistakes and errors have risen dramatically over the last several decades and are now attributed as being the third leading cause of death in the U.S. Medical misdiagnosis is one of the most common types of errors, claiming more than 250,000 lives each year.
Medical misdiagnosis may involve failure to detect a condition or attributing symptoms to other causes, thereby preventing proper treatment. A wrong or missed diagnosis can occur due to a variety of reasons:
- Failure to keep proper patient health records, such as medical and family health history
- Rushed appointment times and inadequate exams
- Communications errors on the part of doctor, hospital, and diagnostic staff
- Failure to order proper testing based on patient symptoms
- Misreading diagnostic results
As a result of a misdiagnosis, otherwise mild or treatable conditions can become life threatening and, in some cases, incurable and fatal. This is particularly true for patients with undetected cancers.
Symptoms of Cancer Your Doctor Might Miss
The American Cancer Society (ACS) advises that preventative healthcare screenings, such as pap tests, breast or prostate exams, and colonoscopies, are the best tools for catching cancer in its early stages. Unfortunately, however, there are not screenings for every type of cancer. In those cases, it is vital that your doctor be alert for any potential signs and symptoms.
As cancer includes a variety of different types of diseases, symptoms can vary based on the affected body part or system, the size of the cancer, and how long it has had a chance to develop. The following are among some of the most common symptoms. While they can also be indicative of more minor illnesses or infections, the ACS advises they should be thoroughly assessed by your doctor in terms of cancer risks:
- Unexplained weight loss of ten pounds or more
- Extreme tiredness and fatigue
- Occasional fevers and night sweats
- Unexplained, chronic pain
- Unusual bleeding
- Sores that do not heal
- Nagging cough and hoarseness
- White spots in the mouth
- Trouble swallowing and indigestion
- Changes in urinary or bowel habits
- Lumps and changes in the skin
While having any of the above symptoms does not mean you have cancer, it is something you should make your doctor aware of and get a second opinion if necessary.
Contact A South Carolina Medical Malpractice Attorney
If you suspect your doctor has made a medical error or failed to diagnose an injury or health condition, contact the Anastopoulo Law Firm. We can arrange a free consultation to discuss your concerns and advise you on the best course of action in your case.