According to a recent report by the Institute of Medicine (IOM), every year, five percent of patients who seek outpatient treatment experience a diagnosis that is inaccurate or delayed, if not missed altogether.
Misdiagnosis is a common concern among patients, as overlooking a serious health condition can result in additional harm or even death.
Some ailments are more likely to be overlooked or misdiagnosed than others, often because they share symptoms with less serious conditions (such as the flu or common cold).
Here are several of the most commonly misdiagnosed conditions:
- Heart attack: Heart attack symptoms can sometimes be straighforward to pinpoint, such as chest and left arm pain, but doctors often mistake these for signs of indigestion or the flu.
- Cancer: A delayed cancer diagnosis can be a costly mistake, as it gives the disease time to advance. Some types of cancer are misdiagnosed more often than others, such as colorectal, lung and breast.
- Stroke: Just the same as a heart attack, symptoms of a stroke are often the same as many less serious ailments. Symptoms include confusion, weakness and difficulty speaking. Even with these serious signs present, a misdiagnosis could occur.
- Pulmonary embolism: If a blood clot reaches the lungs, symptoms will include chest pain and coughing. Unfortunately, this ailment shares many signs of a chest cold, thus leading doctors to turn patients away. It takes several advanced tests to properly diagnose pulmonary embolism.
Protect yourself with these tips
Even if you have the best medical team working on your behalf, you can’t assume that a misdiagnosis will never occur. You have to take action yourself, doing what’s best for you and your health. Here are some tips:
- Keep track of all your symptoms
- Share your symptoms with your doctor
- Always be 100 percent truthful with your medical team about your symptoms and how you’re feeling
- Follow up on test results
- Ask for follow up testing if your condition doesn’t improve
Finally, never second-guess your gut feeling to get a second opinion. It may cost you time and money, but it could also save your life.
If you or a family member was recently the victim of a medical misdiagnosis, seek follow up care to ensure that you’re in good hands. From there, learn more about what went wrong in the past, so you can protect your legal rights in the future.