Medical Misdiagnosis is More Common Than You Think
Many people immediately associate medical lawsuits with a surgeon doing something wrong before, during, or after surgery that leads to patient injury, but surgical errors make up for just a small subsection of medical-related lawsuits. Medical misdiagnosis and failure to diagnose affects millions of Americans annually—without proper diagnosis, proper treatment cannot ensue, and the process toward recovery cannot begin. If you or anyone you know was misdiagnosed with an incorrect medical condition, or if your medical condition went undetected due to medical error, you may be entitled to compensation for your medical expenses and personal losses.Cancer Misdiagnosis
One of the most devastating categories of diagnosis is cancer. A recent study highlighted by CBS News found that certain types of cancers were misdiagnosed or undetected about five percent of the time, a stunningly high percentage that should cause concern for both doctors and patients. While this particular study looked at colorectal and lung cancer screenings, other cancers, such as breast and pancreatic cancer, are typically misdiagnosed or caught in later stages due to the subtlety of some of the symptoms.
Most forms of cancer are extremely aggressive and progress through the body rapidly. Early detection can be the difference between needing some chemotherapy versus daily radiation that may decrease your quality of life significantly more than if your condition had been caught earlier. Any cancer-related symptoms should be scrutinized carefully by your physician—cancer affects all ages, races, and classes and should be considered as a possibility when a patient presents with certain complaints.Misdiagnosis of Debilitating Medical Conditions
Medical misdiagnosis occurs at all levels of patient care—from your local primary care doctor visits to more hospital or specialty-related settings. Some patients return to their doctors with the same symptoms year in and year out without seeing any improvement. Certain medical conditions, such as celiac disease (an inability to digest gluten), hypothyroidism, diabetes and other mental illnesses such as depression can manifest themselves in ways that can make them difficult to diagnosis. These conditions, generally speaking, have relatively simple lifestyle changes accompanying their treatment that make them manageable once diagnosed. Without the diagnosis, however, treatment cannot ensue, and victims of these illnesses continue to suffer until a doctor makes a correct diagnosis.
Other conditions such as MS (multiple sclerosis) and lupus require immediate medical attention and tend to need more changes and treatment. These are often misdiagnosed or left untreated.What Can You Do?
While doctors need to take responsibility for effectively diagnosing and treating their patients, there are things you can do to help protect yourself. Consider:
- Visiting the same doctor (or at least a doctor at the same clinic/hospital that has your medical records) when possible: Your doctor knows you. Your doctor has access to your medical history, chart, allergies past complaints, and medications. Consistency is good for both you and your doctor—you may be more likely to be forthcoming about your symptoms with a doctor you know and your doctor may be more likely to take new complaints or questions seriously if you have not brought them up before.
- If visiting a new doctor, order your medical records ahead of time: Without a medical history, it is difficult for doctors to treat their patients. While you might think you have everything in your memory, it is easy to forget seemingly insignificant details from your medical history that may change your diagnosis or treatment. Absent an emergency, always call and have your previous medical records sent to your new doctor—this is generally not time-consuming or expensive in the digital age, and some offices will even allow online requests for medical records to be sent to another physician.
- Calling to follow up on test results:It can be difficult to relax if you have not heard anything about your blood test. While making the call can be frightening, calling the office to check in on your results and following up does nothing but reassure you.
- Taking advice: If your doctor suggests you see a specialist, go see a specialist. Usually your doctor can refer you to a doctor in your insurance network, so cost should never be a reason for skipping a recommended second opinion or closer look.
- Asking for specific tests to be run: This is not to suggest that you should become your own doctor and start scouring WebMD for hours on end. However, with the plethora of information available online, there is definitely some validity to doing some preliminary research to figure out the best questions and suggestions to make to your doctor at your next visit.
- Being honest: Many of us are more than a little shy about telling the truth about our drinking, smoking, and lifestyle habits when put on the spot at the doctor’s office. A good physician is not there to pass judgment, but to use all of the information possible to help make informed medical decisions about your diagnosis and treatment. Doctors cannot act on information they do not have, and cannot accurately plan medical action without correct information.
At Corsiglia, McMahon & Allard, L.L.P., our skilled San Jose medical malpractice attorneys understand the devastating effect that a medical misdiagnosis may have on your life. Illness is physically and emotionally draining, and we understand how difficult it can be to focus on your health when you have bills, missed work, and your future hanging over your head. We advocate for our clients in settlements and trial to ensure that our clients receive what they have lost financially—while it is difficult to quantify a loss of quality of life or the fear of continued illness, we will do everything we can to ensure that you receive the compensation you deserve. Contact our skilled California attorneys to learn more about filing a medical malpractice misdiagnosis case today.