Medical misdiagnosis: Why more frequent than you’d guess?

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It’s not often that you hear a celebrity open up about a sensitive medical diagnosis, but this is just what occurred recently. Kelly Clarkson explained that a misdiagnosis effectively ruined her 2006 trip to the Grammy Awards.

The musician remembered the fear she felt after hearing that she “had cancerous results for something.” Soon after, her physician told her that tests had been mixed up and she had received the wrong diagnosis. Fortunately, she did not have cancer. What can be even more harmful is a misdiagnosis that fails to catch cancer. Early detection is vital and any delay can mean fewer treatment options.

“Who mixes up results?”

Physicians, nurses and other professional staff can make mistakes. The move to electronic records was supposed to limit these errors, but they still occur.

A 2015 JAMA study found that breast biopsies were diagnosed incorrectly by pathologists almost a quarter of the time. Another 2014 BMJ Quality & Safety study found that diagnostic mistakes affect one in 20 adults – with half of these being potentially harmful.

A SELF article included several factors that can cause problems:

  • Rushed appointments
  • An incomplete patient history
  • Incorrect interpretation of results
  • False positives on a biopsy

One common example happens with cervical cancer screenings when young women worry that an abnormal Pap test means cancer. This can occur when a doctor doesn’t take the time to explain the result or answer questions.

Why get a second opinion?

Advocating for yourself includes requesting a second opinion after receiving a serious diagnosis. But if you feel rushed or like your concerns are not being taken seriously, you also need to find another doctor.

If you are concerned that a poor medical outcome was related to a misdiagnosis, share these concerns with a medical malpractice attorney. Legal remedies could be available depending on your circumstances.

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