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Why do doctors fail to diagnose cancer quickly in some cases?

On Behalf of | Sep 21, 2021 | Failure To Diagnose & Misdiagnosis

When there is something wrong with you, you depend on your doctor to determine the cause of your unpleasant symptoms and help you get the right treatment. The diagnostic process might involve multiple kinds of tests, such as blood tests, biopsies or even imaging tests.

Given that cancer can spread quickly with devastating results, doctors often try to get patients into treatment as quickly as possible after a diagnosis. Unfortunately, some doctors don’t accurately diagnose cancer when their patients present symptoms.

It may take weeks or even a second opinion for a patient to finally understand the cause of their issues. Why do doctors sometimes fail to diagnose cancer?

They don’t take the symptoms seriously enough

In a study looking at delayed cancer diagnoses, researchers found that the kind of symptoms a patient reported had a direct relationship with how likely a diagnostic delay was.

Those reporting concrete symptoms like a newly-developed mass were much less likely to have a delay in the diagnosis of their cancer than someone with less verifiable symptoms, like pain or weakness. If a doctor does not identify the cause of a symptom, they may fail to diagnose someone in a timely manner.

They jump to a conclusion involving a more common illness

If you have a cough, that could be a sign of lung cancer, but it could also be a sign of a simple seasonal cold. Many common cancer symptoms may have multiple, less serious explanations that a doctor might hope have caused someone’s symptoms.

If you present with a rash all over your body, your doctor may be more likely to diagnose you with allergies or scabies than they would connect that rash with lymphoma. However, doctors should not make assumptions when attempting to diagnose someone.

Ruling out more serious conditions before deciding the actual cause of an issue is important. Not only will a patient diagnosed with a cold or allergies rather than cancer not get the treatment they need, but they might undergo unnecessary medical interventions that could have side effects of their own. Recognizing that delayed diagnosis is a medical failure might motivate you to hold the doctor accountable for this all too common form of medical malpractice.