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3 reasons doctors may struggle to accurately diagnose cancer

Cancer is one of the most common causes of death in the United States and also one of the most debilitating illnesses that a person can potentially develop. Not only can cancer prematurely end the lives of people, but it can also require debilitating treatments that substantially reduce someone’s quality of life.

Doctors can help patients recognize the warning signs of cancer and refer them out for the appropriate treatment given the type of cancer they have and the stage to which it has already developed. Unfortunately, diagnostic errors related to cancer are quite common in the United States.

Why do so many doctors overlook cancer or misdiagnosis it as a less serious medical issue?

Cancer symptoms can be generic

Especially during the early stages of cancer development, it can be difficult to tell the difference between cancer and a far less serious medical issue, like a respiratory infection. Early symptoms of cancer can include changes in appetite, difficulty sleeping and fatigue. Doctors might diagnose someone with a less pressing medical issue instead of ruling out cancer the way that they should.

Doctors have inadequate time with each patient

Many modern physicians have more patients on their rosters than they can realistically manage. They cannot retain enough information about each individual patient to remember their personal medical history. Additionally, doctors often have to see so many patients every day that they struggle to devote adequate time to each individual patient. A doctor who only has a few minutes to devote to a patient may rush to diagnose them instead of carefully listening and evaluating the potential causes of their symptoms.

Communication issues can impede diagnosis

Sometimes, patients struggle to adequately describe their recent experiences. Other times, doctors are dismissive of a patient’s self-reported symptoms and may assume that they have exaggerated or even fabricated the symptoms they report. That dismissive attitude may ultimately result in a doctor failing to recognize the warning signs of cancer. They may send someone away without a diagnosis or with a diagnosis for a less severe condition that ultimately proves inaccurate.

When patients do not receive a timely cancer diagnosis, their risk of a negative outcome significantly increases. As such, filing a medical malpractice lawsuit can be a reasonable response when a delayed cancer diagnosis caused by substandard care affects someone’s condition.