Nobody’s perfect – even the most qualified doctors can occasionally get things wrong.
However, sometimes these medical errors and misdiagnoses can lead to serious problems and complications – even death. Here are some of the most common misdiagnoses that, if not corrected, can lead to serious injury – or worse.
Cancer gets misdiagnosed more often than you think. According to the Journal of Clinical Oncology, it may happen as much as 28 percent of the time, as much as 44 percent for specific types.
One of the main reasons this occurs is because seemingly common symptoms or ailments are not taken seriously. For example, early symptoms of ovarian cancer can include bloating, fatigue, and constipation – which could be attributed to menopause, aging, or indigestion. Some cancers such as lymphoma or lung cancer can manifest in the form of cold or flu-like symptoms, and may thus be dismissed as just a cough or chest congestion.
The reverse can occur as well, wherein a series of relatively minor symptoms are incorrectly diagnosed as cancer. Some patients go through vigorous bouts of chemotherapy and even intensive surgeries before medical professionals realize their initial diagnoses were incorrect.
These forms of misdiagnosis can lead to pain and suffering that may not have otherwise been experienced had medical professionals been more competent during the process.
Suffering a heart attack may seem like something that could be easily diagnosed, just by the naked eye, but surprisingly enough, it gets overlooked a staggering amount. BBC News reported that one in three heart attack cases are given an incorrect initial diagnosis, and women seem to be particularly misdiagnosed as well.
The causes of this lie in the symptoms associated with suffering a heart attack. Most people are aware of the signature chest pain associated with a heart attack, but recent studies show that the severity of the chest pain may vary drastically, based on a number of factors, including age and sex.
Younger people tend to be misdiagnosed, as heart attacks are still categorized as an “old man” affliction. And women, in particular, are more likely to be misdiagnosed, as a recent 2014 study has concluded that they may express differing heart symptoms than men.
A heart attack that goes undiagnosed or misdiagnosed can lead to devastating effects in the long run, including a severely weakened heart, cardiac arrest, and death.
According to the Johns Hopkins Hospital, doctors downplay early signs of strokes in as many as tens of thousands of Americans every year. Because the early signs of a stroke include minor symptoms such as vision problems, confusion, headache, and trouble walking or speaking, patients who visit an ER are often misdiagnosed as having vertigo or a severe migraine and are sent home.
And since strokes are typically associated with men who are older, it is frequently misdiagnosed in women and those under the age of 45. According to the same Johns Hopkins study, younger people were almost seven times more likely to be given an incorrect diagnosis.
Suffering a stroke can be a debilitating, life-altering event, regardless of the person’s age. People may suffer significant brain damage as a result, with long-lasting, often permanent, effects on speech, mobility, and memory. It’s a serious condition that requires serious scrutiny from a competent medical professional.
Endometriosis is a fairly common affliction, affecting more than 200,000 women every year, according to the Mayo Clinic. A reproductive disorder in women, this painful illness gets frequently misdiagnosed in women as menstrual pain and cramping.
Indeed, some of the symptoms associated with endometriosis are similar to symptoms associated with menstrual pain – except on a greater scale. Heavy flow, intense cramping, and pelvic pain can be signature indicators of something more serious at hand – but it often gets dismissed by doctors as heavy menstrual pain.
While some consider endometriosis to be a minor disease, it can have incredibly devastating, long-lasting ramifications on a woman’s health. If endometriosis is left undiagnosed, uterine scarring may occur, which can lead to issues as severe as infertility.
Fibromyalgia is one of the most commonly misdiagnosed ailments, primarily due to its symptoms mimicking other afflictions more well-known to medical professionals.
It’s commonly mistaken as a form of arthritis, due to its association with nerve and joint pain. However, if and when the disease persists even after attempting to treat it, doctors usually settle on fibromyalgia as a final diagnosis.
Although it’s not a life-threatening disease, a delayed diagnosis of fibromyalgia can cause months or even years of unneeded pain and suffering.