Cancer Misdiagnoses Surprisingly Common

Joe Cantlupe, for HealthLeaders Media , February 7, 2013

An acquaintance of mine was diagnosed with throat cancer, and the doctor assured him that, while serious, the road to recovery would be relatively straightforward and uneventful, because it was Stage I, maybe Stage II. 

His wife wasn't convinced, and suggested that her husband seek a second opinion.  He went to a prestigious hospital for evaluation, and the verdict was Stage IV—much more serious, disruptive, and disheartening, and yes, it was the correct diagnosis.

Indeed, patients are often encouraged to seek second opinions. But how often are the physicians who misdiagnose the patients even aware of their mistakes? More importantly, what can be done to thwart misdiagnoses in the first place?

A survey released by the National Coalition on Health Care shows that physicians may believe that misdiagnosis, in oncology in particular, is far less common than it really is. This illustrates a definite gap in at least the perception needed to overcome such errors.

The survey was conducted by the NCHC, a Washington D.C.-based group of dozens of health care organizations, and Best Doctors, a Boston-based company specializing in physician programs.

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