The New York Times recently stated that the failure to recognize cancer in patients can lead to tragic results, including lost opportunities to address the disease while it is at a curable stage. Some causes of cancer misdiagnosis in Illinois may involve physician overconfidence and reliance on inaccurate information, as any Chicago medical malpractice lawyer knows. These root issues can manifest in several ways, all of which may act as barriers to accurate and timely diagnoses.
1. Physician overconfidence
According to a 2012 Best Doctors report, physicians’ estimations on the rates of cancer misdiagnosis are incongruent with reality. While the general rate of misdiagnosis can be up to 28 or 44 percent, the majority of the doctors in the study believed that misdiagnoses only occurred in up to 10 percent of cases. These numbers indicate that physicians may be grossly overestimating their ability to make accurate diagnoses.
2. Incomplete or fragmented information
Nearly 40 percent of the participating physicians in the Best Doctors report attribute the misdiagnosis or improper characterization of cancer to incomplete information. The doctors believe this problem is due to the lack of a cohesive method of maintaining patient records. Based on these results, the study notes that using standardized electronic records instead of paper files may be a key component in improving physicians’ accuracy in cancer diagnoses.
3. Inadequate pathology tools
The New York Times identifies the inadequacy of a health care facility’s pathology protocols as one potential cause of cancer misdiagnosis. This is echoed by Best Doctors; the study states that 36 percent of respondents believe improvements in pathology tools would provide the most substantial boost to diagnostic accuracy for cancer patients.
4. Lack of physician subspecialty expertise
Almost half of the Best Doctors report respondents stated that doctor error is a barrier to correct cancer diagnoses. Specifically, the participants noted that when pathologists lack subspecialty expertise, these physicians can misinterpret pathology specimens. The inaccurate medical conclusions that result from these types of errors may lead to an improper assessment of a patient’s health—a serious issue with which a Chicago medical malpractice lawyer is undoubtedly familiar.
Cancer misdiagnoses cause not only serious emotional turmoil for patients, but also substantial increases in treatment costs. This is because an improper diagnosis often allows the disease to progress, and late-stage cancer treatments are usually more expensive than those employed for early stages of the disease. As these losses can sometimes be addressed through personal injury litigation, those who have suffered emotional or financial injuries due to a physician’s misdiagnosis may want to contact a Chicago medical malpractice lawyer to determine whether a personal injury lawsuit is a viable option.