Receiving a breast cancer diagnosis can be one of the most frightening things a woman can hear in her lifetime. But as North Carolina medical malpractice lawyers we know that even worse is to not be diagnosed or to have a wrong diagnosis when you really do have cancer. Below is a real story from a woman with terminal breast cancer who was misdiagnosed by many doctors.
“I have terminal metastatic breast cancer. It could have been diagnosed in February 2008 (vs December 2010) when my battle would have been more worthwhile. That would have alleviated almost three years of suffering.
My story is a cautionary tale about medical mistakes, basic communication failures between busy but fallible doctors, and my naive faith in a “world class academic health system.” It is also a story of many lessons I have learned as a misdiagnosed patient. I have learned that medical mistakes are the third leading cause of death in the US after heart disease and cancer.
Since 2008, I have spent years and gone to over 50 doctor appointments with my primary care provider (PCP) and specialists. I was trying to understand the reasons for my back pain, which began in 2007, and my extreme fatigue, which began in 2005. I had an MRI in February 2008 that showed concerns for metastatic disease in multiple vertebrae. A bone scan was ordered that did not correspond to the MRI results. My PCP told me I did not have cancer and I believed him.”
At least one in every 20 adults who seeks medical care in the U.S. may walk away with the wrong diagnosis, according to a new analysis that estimates that 12 million Americans a year could be affected by such errors. Of those misdiagnosis mistakes, about 6 million could potentially cause harm. Included in that 6 million are patients whose doctors failed to diagnose their breast cancer, these types of cases are the most common type of medical malpractice claims filed.
How does a doctor miss the presence of breast cancer? Studies and medical malpractice cases have shown that many doctors fail to follow the accepted guidelines that are in place to diagnose breast and other cancers. These failures to diagnose a patient can lead to the spread of the cancer, pain and suffering, and even death.
Is it only the diagnosis of breast cancer that is usually missed? Sadly, no. One study reports various types of cancer along with breast cancer were missed frequently, including colon cancer, melanoma and lung cancer. In addition to cancer, failure to diagnose a heart attack and meningitis in children were other bases for medical malpractice claims.