A misdiagnosis can have devastating effects for a patient. They may suffer debilitating pain, lasting physical impairments, and even death due to lack of appropriate treatment. They may also endure severe side effects from receiving treatment for the wrong condition. A delayed diagnosis can have similar outcomes, particularly as the condition progresses.
Common cases of misdiagnosis or delayed diagnosis include:
A delay in diagnosing breast and other cancers can result from any number of errors on the part of the woman’s physician, the radiologist reading the mammogram, the pathologist interpreting the biopsy, or the communication system between various physicians. The following unacceptable errors can lead to a delay in both proper diagnosis and timely treatment:
Missing an obvious lump during a breast exam;
Ignoring a history of acute pain in a breast;
Mistaking a tumor for an infection;
Failing to investigate nipple discharge;
Misreading, failing to order, or follow up on a mammogram;
Failure to begin required treatment or prescribe necessary medication before disease become untreatable;
Failure to order tests necessary to confirm or deny disease;
Error in reading test results or images;
Failure to promptly refer the patient to a specialist for appropriate testing;
Failure to follow standard procedures;
Failure to conduct tests in light of a patient’s medical or family history;
Mistaking a tumor as benign and failing to recommend biopsy, ultrasound or breast removal when indicated.
Misdiagnosis of cancer has resulted in thousands of patients having to claim compensation because of failings in taking the right scans, as well as patients’ cancer diagnostic test results being lost or confused with test results from other patients. The CervicalCheck cancer scandal first emerged in 2018 and involved several women in Ireland suing the Health Service Executive (HSE) after they received incorrect smear test results for cervical cancer.
Misdiagnosing or failing to diagnose cancer should be a rare event – but sadly, cases in which a patient’s cancer was misdiagnosed still occur.
Patients who have suffered injury because cancer was misdiagnosed have two years from the date of diagnosis of their cancer – or from the date they realised their cancer had been misdiagnosed.