Yes, cancer can be misdiagnosed — or diagnosed too late. In one type of misdiagnosis, doctors tell patients they have cancer. Later, they find out they do not. This can happen when doctors misread screening tests. For example, a colorectal cancer test requires proper preparation of the bowels. If they are not, a misreading of the test results could be more likely. This type of misdiagnosis can cause huge emotional suffering, but in many cases, there are no long-term physical effects. That said, some people diagnosed with cancer undergo harsh chemotherapy and other unneeded procedures before the truth comes out.
On the other hand, when cancer is misdiagnosed as something else and/or there is a huge delay in the correct diagnosis, physical effects almost always occur. The cancer can progress to the point where treatment does not help, and with an earlier diagnosis, treatment could have helped. This is medical malpractice. It is also possible to misdiagnose the stage a cancer is in, which has the potential to greatly influence treatment options.
Why cancer is misdiagnosed sometimes
A cancer diagnosis often requires an experienced set of eyes. For example, a pathologist looking at a slide of tissue might not have enough expertise to always make a correct diagnosis. As a result, someone who does not have cancer may receive a positive diagnosis, or the pathologist might misclassify the type of cancer.
Misdiagnoses also occurs when doctors evaluate signs and symptoms and come up with something else. This can also be due to inexperience, though this is no excuse.
A misdiagnosis is no laughing matter and can mean the difference between life and death. If you or a loved one received a misdiagnosis, an attorney may be able to help and relieve much of your stress so you can focus on health matters. Speak to one as soon as possible while your memories of what happened are fresh.