We trust our healthcare providers with our lives, so we tend to believe them and follow their treatment plan when diagnosed with a particular condition.
Therefore, it’s terrifying when you discover you’ve been misdiagnosed and your actual illness is much more severe.
How often do misdiagnoses occur?
Misdiagnosis is more common than we realize and can lead to serious harm. There are over 7.4 million cases yearly of people being misdiagnosed, with approximately 370,000 dying or left with a permanent disability.
Misdiagnosis can lead to incorrect, delayed, or unnecessary treatments. For example, a cancer patient whose disease is misdiagnosed may not receive the critical treatment they need in time. Conversely, a healthy person wrongly diagnosed with a serious illness might undergo unnecessary invasive procedures.
Certain conditions are more likely to be misdiagnosed than others, such as:
- Heart disease
- Venous thromboembolism
- Some forms of cancer
Misdiagnoses can occur due to a variety of factors, including:
- Lack of communication or miscommunication. Sometimes, patients don’t completely understand what their doctor is saying and are afraid to ask questions.
- Illnesses that share common symptoms
- Incomplete medical history
- Healthcare providers have time constraints and limited time to spend with each patient
- Lack of medical knowledge
- Inaccurate lab results or faulty equipment
- Bias towards patient
When receiving medical care, it’s essential that we advocate for ourselves and our loved ones. Don’t be afraid to ask questions. If you don’t agree with your physician regarding a diagnosis or treatment, seek a second opinion.