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False Cancer Diagnosis Another Form of Medical Error

Though a misdiagnosis of cancer usually means a doctor has overlooked the fact that a patient has cancer, in some case it means a doctor has diagnosed cancer that does not exist.

Patients victimized by such a false positive diagnosis may undergo painful treatment that was unnecessary. They may eventually be relieved to learn their life is not in danger, but have already endured the stress of being told they have cancer and undergone invasive procedures.

Consider the case of a Florida woman who alleges she was falsely told she had rectal cancer and was forced to go through unnecessary surgery to have a portion of her rectum removed. In a lawsuit filed against a Florida hospital, she claims to have endured “four (4) unnecessary operative procedures” because of the misdiagnosis.

The woman alleges that she was improperly diagnosed”because a tissue sample from a routine colonoscopy was “mislabeled” with another patient’s specimen, according to WFTV Channel 9 in Orlando, which has not identified the woman.

One company that sells specimen-tracking systems to hospitals says, “One of the most common and preventable causes leading to misdiagnosis comes from a surprisingly simple step in the process – the labeling of tissue samples.”

About 7 billion tissue samples are tested in U.S. laboratories every year, according to this company, and such biopsies contribute to 70 percent of all medical decisions that are made.

The company’s website quotes the groundbreaking Institute of Medicine study “To Err is Human,” which estimates that up to 98,000 people die in hospitals each year from preventable medical errors, and says this makes misdiagnosis the eighth leading cause of death in the U.S., ahead of motor vehicle accidents, breast cancer and AIDS.

In short, the incidence of cancer misdiagnosis because of mislabeled lab specimens is a known problem.

The Florida patient cites unnecessary, disfiguring surgery, but other victims of false-positive cancer findings undergo harsh chemotherapy and radiation treatments that turn out to be unnecessary. And until the error is recognized, they and their loved ones must needlessly live with the shock and stress of a cancer diagnosis. As the Florida patient tells Channel 9:

“My initial reaction was I was terrified. I was thinking about my family, I was wondering what was going to happen next. … I hardly slept those five months. I was always wondering, trying to get things in order.”

Powers & Santola’s Delayed Diagnosis of Cancer website provides information about how specific cancers grow – including colo-rectal cancer, breast cancer, melanoma (skin cancer) and about 20 others – and several ways negligent doctors have been known to miss the signs of these deadly diseases or see them where they have not occurred.

If we can provide you or your family additional answers or legal advice about a misdiagnosis of cancer, please contact us today.

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