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How common is a major misdiagnosis?

by | Apr 3, 2020 | Uncategorized

You go to the doctor because you have trouble breathing and the doctor diagnoses you with asthma. After six months of unsuccessful treatment and bouncing around to different specialists, you find out that your “asthma” is lung cancer — which has now spread, making treatment more difficult.

Is this just plain bad luck, or is it medical malpractice?

A John Hopkins University School of Medicine study indicates that inaccurate diagnoses affect around 12 million people in this country every year. Around a third of those people — or four million — will suffer serious permanent injuries or die as a result of those mistakes.

What are the top conditions associated with medical mistakes? Almost three-fourths (74.1%) fall into one of three categories:

  • Cancer (37.8% of cases)
  • Vascular events (22.8% of cases)
  • Infection (13.5% of cases)

When examining the facts more closely, researchers discovered that there are just 15 total conditions that tend to be misdiagnosed. Sepsis was was the most commonly missed infection. Stroke was the most commonly overlooked vascular disease and lung cancer the most misdiagnosed form of that disease.

So what does that mean for you and other patients? Essentially, you have every right to be suspicious when a mistaken diagnosis of asthma or some kind of upper respiratory infection turns out to be cancer.

If the mistake is caught quickly and you suffer no lasting harm because of the delay in treatment, you may not have any reason to pursue a claim. However, cancer is one of those diseases that requires prompt treatment to control or mitigate.

If your lung cancer was mistaken for another disease and you suffered additional injury as a result, you have legal options. An experienced attorney can help.


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