Common causes of misdiagnosis
Even though the error rate is relatively low within the NHS, a regrettable number of cancer cases are misdiagnosed or undiagnosed. This unfortunate fact may be due to the very frequency of the illness, or perhaps to patients presenting with an otherwise healthy appearance and few (if any) signs and symptoms – until the condition advances. It is particularly important, therefore, for doctors (and, indeed, patients themselves) to remain watchful and be aware of any symptoms as they appear, progress or disappear.
As many as one in eight women have invasive breast cancer at some time in their lives. However, the condition might be misdiagnosed as a benign cyst, i.e. a collection of liquid within the tissues. Similarly, inflammatory breast cancer frequently causes redness (due to inflammation) and unusually warm skin, leading to possible misdiagnosis of mastitis or fibrocystic breast disease.
Colorectal cancer involves the lower intestine and rectum. The prognosis is more favourable when the condition is detected and treated as early as possible; however, IBD (inflammatory bowel disease), ulcerative colitis or even haemorrhoids (commonly referred to as piles) are all common misdiagnoses. In the same way, pancreatic cancer symptoms in the digestive tract could result in misdiagnosis of IBS (irritable bowel syndrome), gallstones, pancreatitis or diabetes. In fact, diabetes is itself both a common symptom of this type of cancer as well as a risk factor which increases the chances of contracting it.
Finally, lung cancer may produce symptoms such as shortness of breath, wheezing, coughing and hoarseness. As these warning signs also occur in individuals who have other types of respiratory infection, patients might receive a misdiagnosis of asthma, bronchitis, pneumonia, pleurisy (inflammation of the chest membrane) or tuberculosis.
Seek qualified medical or specialist advice
If you are concerned about any of these medical symptoms, you should seek qualified medical or specialist advice. It may also be possible to make a compensation claim; our experienced solicitors aim to provide thoughtful help, understand your case and seek answers from the medical practitioners involved.