Misdiagnosis can be incredibly frustrating for patients, not to mention potentially damaging to their health.
Medical professionals should have the skills and experience to identify health issues or instruct necessary referrals to find the source of the problem – but even they can make mistakes.
Where cancer is involved, the situation is significantly more pressing. Early diagnosis and treatment can make all the difference in outcomes for patients.
However, worrying reports are suggesting that cancer misdiagnosis could be on the rise.
Alarming reports of cancer misdiagnosis in the UK
An article from The Independent in 2018 warned that 40% of cancer patients were misdiagnosed at least once before their cancer was properly identified.
This staggering figure highlighted that much work needed to be done to improve accurate diagnosis rates. Years later, reports of cancer misdiagnosis are still widespread.
Statistics are one thing, but reading about the stories of the people involved is tragic and shows the severe mental and physical strain that such circumstances can have.
In June 2023, the BBC reported that a 15-year-old girl had just a few months to live after she was misdiagnosed with a pain condition. An initial scan missed a tumour in her spine that turned out to be cancerous.
What causes or contributes to misdiagnosis?
Misdiagnosis can happen with any health condition. Symptoms of cancer often resemble other issues and scans aren’t always able to pick up early-stage tumours.
Some of the most easily mistaken include lymphoma, breast and colon cancer. For example, the warning signs of lymphoma include symptoms such as weight loss, fever and fatigue which are common in many different conditions.
There are concerns about the NHS and pressures on services as we continue to emerge from the turbulence of the pandemic.
Longer waiting lists for appointments and procedures, as well as staffing issues making it harder to give patients the appropriate level of care could all be factors in misdiagnosis cases.
Regardless of the cause, the impact these mistakes have on patients and families is considerable. Those who are misdiagnosed are well within their rights to consult no win no fee medical negligence claim lawyers if they want to strive for compensation.
What’s being done to improve cancer diagnosis procedures?
There have been strategies designed and implemented to combat cancer misdiagnosis which are starting to come into effect.
The NHS has been reporting in line with a new standard of care called the Faster Diagnosis Standard (FDS). This was outlined in its 2015 cancer strategy, ultimately aiming to streamline the process from referral to diagnosis and treatment.
Innovation in medical technology is also going to play a significant role. Artificial intelligence is developing quickly and is likely to bring remarkable benefits to patients and healthcare organisations in the form of more accurate and quicker cancer testing.