When you think about examples of medical malpractice, you probably imagine surgical errors, negligent acts, and hospital mix-ups. However, often doctors can make mistakes by simply misunderstanding your symptoms and treating you for the wrong disease or condition. In other cases, your physician could fail to diagnose your medical problem altogether.
There are many ways that these mistakes take place - your doctor could neglect to order the correct diagnostic tests for your symptoms. He or she might misread test results. He or she might assume you have one problem when you have another problem. He or she may simply not believe what you are telling them.
What are the most commonly misdiagnosed and under diagnosed diseases?
- Cancer is the most commonly misdiagnosed disease, according to a recent Harvard study that analyzed United States medical malpractice claims. The most commonly missed cancers are breast cancer, colon cancer, and cervical cancer. Frighteningly, the reason for many of these missed diagnoses is simply that doctors are not following the established screening guidelines.
- Infections, such as strep throat, ear infections, and staph infections are often missed by doctors. Untreated infections can worsen, spread, and cause permanent debilitating damage to patients.
- Painless heart attacks. Although dramatic heart attacks are somewhat easy to diagnosis (in which the patient suddenly grabs their chest and falls to the floor) a good number of heart attacks are less obvious and consist of a feeling of fullness in the chest and nausea. This can be misdiagnosed as many things, including a simple case of heart burn.
- Clogged arteries. The symptoms for coronary artery disease are somewhat vague, such as shortness of breath. A less-than-thorough doctor may think that their patient is simply getting older or out of shape instead of taking the complaints seriously and fully exploring the symptoms. It can be a deadly mistake.