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Are diagnosis errors common in the United States?

Doctors make mistakes, and many times they're not serious enough to cause a problem. The issue is when they make mistakes that do cause serious harm to patients. Things like failing to diagnose cancer early on or not diagnosing a condition before it worsens can put a patient's life in danger.

Do doctors fail to diagnose conditions often, though? How seriously should patients consider that danger? According to an article featuring a study that includes claims within the United States, France, Canada and Australia, between 26 and 63 percent of all medical malpractice claims were filed because of diagnoses being missed.

Cancer is the most frequently missed disease, including breast cancer, lung cancer, colon cancer and melanomas. Heart attacks were also misdiagnosed commonly, as was meningitis when it was found in children. When these diagnoses were missed, the outcome for patients was most commonly their deaths.

Medication errors were also commonly an issue that led to lawsuits; prescription-related issues, like filing the wrong prescription, could lead to patient injuries due to adverse drug reactions.

What can you do to make sure you're not a victim of a misdiagnosis? Make sure you ask questions and get a second opinion if you think something's wrong. You know your body and health, so it's important to stand up for yourself, even if you think the medical provider has more education to help you.

If you find you have been misdiagnosed, then you'll be able to seek the care you need earlier. You can also decide if you'd like to file a lawsuit against the physician who made the misdiagnosis.

Source: Live Science, "Failure to Diagnose Is No. 1 Reason for Suing Doctors," Rachael Rettner, accessed Dec. 29, 2015

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