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The common problem of cancer misdiagnosis

While most people in Washington trust their doctor’s diagnosis, a second opinion might be a good idea for those who have been told that they may have cancer. Recent studies have shed light on the frequency of misdiagnosis in certain types of cancer and they may be much higher than previously believed. ABC News reports on the growing problem of cancer misdiagnosis.


Scientists at Baltimore’s The John Hopkins Hospital decided to evaluate the problem by examining tissue samples from cancer patients. They used samples from 6,000 patients and discovered that up to 20 percent of cases were misclassified as the wrong type of cancer and misdiagnosis occurred in one out of every 71 patients. This means that there may be a number of people who are told they have cancer when they actually do not. Since 1.3 million people receive a cancer diagnosis each year, that equates to over 18,000 misdiagnoses.


Researchers interviewed reported that the reason for so many mistakes is that equipment used for diagnosis has not been improved or updated in decades. The same methods that were used 50 years ago are still being used today.


Boston Magazine reports that wrong treatments and misdiagnosis wastes nearly $700 billion every year. Many doctors believe the hospitals should be incentivized to keep a closer watch on the problem. The most commonly reported cancers that were misdiagnosed include lymphoma, melanomas, sarcomas and breast cancer. There are also often mistakes when the cancer is in an unknown site. This information should not be taken as medical or legal advice but is meant to educate readers on this common problem.