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Think You Have Been Misdiagnosed? Here is How to Advocate for Your Health

Jan 7, 2019

The statistics on cancer and other medical misdiagnoses are scarce, but it is not an uncommon story: Someone walks into a doctor’s office with a certain set of symptoms, and is sent back home, only to discover later that those symptoms were not benign at all. In fact, diagnostic errors contribute to about 10% of patient deaths, according to the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ). A 2014 study found outpatient errors happen to one in 20 people in the U.S., in cases ranging from general primary care to lung and colorectal cancer diagnoses.

Doctors can miss a cancer diagnosis in any number of ways, from misreading a lab test, failing to screen, or attributing symptoms to weight gain. It can be difficult to question a licensed physician when he or she is supposed to be the expert, but it is important to ask questions, be firm, and seek other opinions if you feel your needs are not being met.

Asking the Right Questions


The best way to be prepared for an upcoming doctor’s appointment is to arrive with a list of questions and concerns. You should also write out all your medications and any conditions you might already have. This will help you be complete while filling out patient forms at the office.


It is also tempting to “self-diagnose” before an appointment. Many people go online to sites like WebMD before arriving at the doctor’s office and worry that smaller symptoms have a more sinister cause. It is ok to ask your doctor about things you read online, as long you maintain a respectful and open line of communication. Asking questions does not mean you are interrogating your practitioner or questioning his or her skills. If you feel like a doctor is not addressing your concerns or providing you enough answers, be persistent, ask for additional testing or ask to see a specialist.


Maintaining Your Records


This is key, especially if you are seeing multiple doctors or transferring physicians. It can be a hassle to get all of those documents sent over from office to office, so you need to be as organized as possible. That means making extra copies of your medical records and bills, which will be needed in the event of a medical malpractice case. Fortunately, many offices now have online portals, so you should also keep a list of your usernames and passwords to easily access test and labwork results.


Know When to Get a Second Opinion


Believe it or not, misdiagnoses are rather common. According to the AHRQ, patients will experience a diagnostic error at least once in their lives. The agency says there are five “rights” that keep diagnostic errors from happening:


  • Right Teamwork
  • Right Information Management
  • Right Measurement and Monitoring
  • Right Patient Empowerment
  • Right Safety Culture


Doctors are encouraged to foster trust by engaging not only with patients but with their families and other health care providers. You know it is time to get a second opinion if you feel your physician is not focusing on safety, communication, and satisfaction, or if he or she is lacking in any of the above rights. You can hear patient and doctor stories about improving diagnoses here.


If You Have Been Misdiagnosed


Failure to detect cancer can be a devastating revelation, and the medical malpractice attorneys at Wattel and York are ready to help victims of a missed cancer diagnoses. Our team of aggressive lawyers has over 40 years of experience in helping malpractice victims receive the compensation they need. We have Arizona offices in Phoenix, West Valley, Tuscon, and Yuma dedicated to helping you fight negligence. Contact us online or call us at 877-572-4143 to schedule your free consultation today.

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