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Causes and consequences of cancer misdiagnosis

Cancer misdiagnosis has far-reaching consequences. There ae many factors contributing to misdiagnosis.

Understanding what causes cancer misdiagnosis is important for fostering awareness. So, too, is understanding the consequences of these diagnostic errors.

Causes of cancer misdiagnosis

A common cause of cancer misdiagnosis is interpretation errors in diagnostic tests. The complexity of medical imaging and pathology reports can lead to misinterpretations. This can result in inaccurate assessments of whether cancer is present.

Communication breakdowns among health care providers and departments contribute to misdiagnoses. So, too, do miscommunications between patients and their health care teams. Inaccurate transfer of information can lead to misjudgments in diagnosing and treating cancer. Failure to convey key details can do the same.

Biopsies also play a key role in cancer diagnosis. However, errors in obtaining or analyzing tissue samples can occur. Sampling errors may lead to false-negative results or false-positive results.

Consequences of cancer misdiagnosis

The most significant consequence of cancer misdiagnosis may be a delay in treatment. Without timely diagnoses, patients may miss the window for effective treatment. This allows the disease to progress to more advanced stages.

Misdiagnosis can also lead to unnecessary treatments. Some of these might include surgery, chemotherapy or radiation therapy.

Cancer misdiagnosis also takes a toll on mental well-being. Believing one has cancer can lead to anxiety, depression and emotional distress.

Per AARP, about 12 million American adults receive the wrong diagnoses each year. This represents about 5% of all adult patients. Recognizing the causes and consequences of misdiagnoses emphasizes the importance of clear communication. It also highlights the need for accurate interpretation of diagnostic tests.