Pancreatic cancer misdiagnosis occurs at an alarmingly high rate. Doctors frequently misdiagnose pancreatic cancer as illnesses such as peptic ulcer disease, acid reflux, or gall bladder disease. Unfortunately, this means that doctors often detect pancreatic cancer in these patients when the cancer is at a later stage. Because of this, these patients may have a shorter window to receive treatment. Sadly, these patients usually have a higher death rate during the first year of receiving the diagnosis. A medical malpractice lawyer may help you understand your rights as a patient whose doctor misdiagnosed pancreatic cancer. If your loved one died because of misdiagnosis of pancreatic cancer, a wrongful death lawyer may be able to investigate and pursue your claim.
Can Pancreatic Cancer Be Misdiagnosed?
Yes. Pancreatic cancer is one of the most misdiagnosed or undetected diseases. According to a study from the University of Utah, doctors frequently mistake it for gall bladder disease, acid reflux, and peptic ulcer disease. These misdiagnoses result in longer treatment periods and higher rates of late-stage cancer for the affected patients. This study seems to suggest that, unfortunately, continuing medical education in this particular area is insufficient.
The Dangers of Pancreatic Cancer Misdiagnosis
As the pancreas slowly fails, patients experience weight loss, stomach pain, fatigue and liver failure. What is especially dangerous is that pancreatic cancer develops quickly. A misdiagnosis could be fatal. It is therefore critical that doctors catch this cancer as early possible.
The Study on Misdiagnosis of Pancreatic Cancer
A 2015 study compared the records of 313 patients who suffered from pancreatic cancer. It compared the rate of immediate diagnosis versus diagnosis that took several tests. The study found that doctors misdiagnosed pancreatic cancer in 119, or 31.3 percent, of those patients. The doctor incorrectly informed the patient’s had acid reflux, gallbladder problems, or peptic ulcer disease. Moreover, 38 cases of misdiagnosis of pancreatic cancer resulted in needless surgeries, like gallbladder removal. This on top of the pancreatic cancer that they actually had.
The Study’s Findings About the Impact of Misdiagnosed Pancreatic Cancer on Patient Outcomes
As a result, misdiagnosed patients suffer higher rates of pain, nausea, vomiting, weight loss and pancreatitis. Moreover, with a disease in which every day and hour matters, misdiagnosed patients took an average of three and a half months to be correctly treated versus just over two weeks for correctly diagnosed patients.
Those longer diagnosis and treatment periods also meant that late-stage cancer was more prevalent among the misdiagnosed group. The study found that nearly 40 percent of misdiagnosed patients had later stage pancreatic cancer, versus only 23.7 percent of patients correctly diagnosed. Additionally, correctly diagnosed patients had higher rates of early cancer (Stage I and II) versus lower rates of early cancer for misdiagnosed patients. The study tends to suggest that misdiagnosed patients develop late-stage cancer at alarmingly higher rates than correctly diagnosed patients.
The Complications of Misdiagnosis of Pancreatic Cancer
Society gives doctors an unenviable task. Society asks them to solve medical mysteries without directly observing them. Doctors rely on intuition, data, education and indirect tests to treat patients. This system of treatment means that some patients will be misdiagnosed. It is inevitable.
However, studies like these can serve as a wake-up call for the medical community. More data means that doctors should adjust their treatment methods to account for these errors. Pancreatic cancer does not allow doctors a lot of room for error.
You May Have a Medical Malpractice Claim Because of the Pancreatic Cancer Misdiagnosis
Pancreatic cancer misdiagnosis may amount to medical malpractice. A medical malpractice lawyer may be able to help you evaluate and file your claim. They may also be able to help you look out for the signs of medical malpractice.
The statute of limitations for medical malpractice imposes a deadline on when you must file your claim. Depending on your situation, the deadline is typically two years from the time that you discovered the medical malpractice. The best way to help make sure you don’t miss the deadline is to talk to a medical malpractice lawyer.