Cancer Misdiagnosis: One New York Woman’s Tale & a Lesson for Everyone


Estimates vary, but some studies show that cancer misdiagnosis occurs in 40% of cases.  If you think that number seems high, you’re likely not alone.  However, the following story of a 27-year-old New York woman is a lesson for everyone with symptoms that can’t be explained.

According to the Huffington Post, the woman was having symptoms of wheezing and shortness of breath.  She sought out the help of numerous doctors, only to find herself being told she had a touch of asthma.  Over the course of a year, she visited the following doctors:

  • Allergist.  The allergist prescribed inhaled steroids and a three- to five-year course of weekly allergy shots.  However, the first drug didn’t work.  Neither did the second, third or fourth.  Instead of continuing with this doctor, she contacted her…
  • Primary Care Doctor.  After an examination, he told her that she was merely “anxious” and she left with a prescription for Xanax.  Feeling worse, and increasingly frustrated, she contacted a…
  • Pulmonologist (Respiratory Tract Specialist).  He ordered a chest X-ray, pulmonary function tests and a methacholine challenge – a test for allergic asthma.  All tests came back normal and he referred her to a…
  • Ear Nose & Throat (ENT) Doctor.  After an examination, the ENT didn’t find anything wrong with her, but referred her to a…
  • Speech Therapist.  The therapist taught her breathing exercises to calm her vocal cords.  With still no relief, she called…
  • The Director of Interventional Pulmonology at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center.  Although she feared that she was wasting the time of some very important doctors, she went in for a CAT scan.  She had lung cancer – and the tumor had been growing for years.

She underwent a procedure known as a lobectomy, which is basically the removal of the right upper lung.  Although she is now cancer-free, her tale is a reminder to everyone not to avoid symptoms that could be worse than your doctor might initially believe.

A Look at Cancer Misdiagnosis Claims

In the end, the woman above was lucky to be able to undergo surgery that allowed her to become cancer-free.  However, that only happened when doctor after doctor told her that there wasn’t anything wrong with her.  Had she not made that call to Sloan Kettering, her story would have likely ended very differently.

Unfortunately, cancer misdiagnosis is more common than most people think.  It can include doctors who:

  • Neglect to order a biopsy or further tests
  • Misread or incorrectly analyze test results
  • Fail to recognize common signs of cancer
  • Neglect to follow up with the patient or the results of testing
  • Wrongly identify a tumor as benign (non-cancerous)
  • Fail to order adequate tests, such as magnetic resonance images, CT scans and x-rays.
  • Fail to adequately screen at-risk patients due to age, ethnicity, family or personal history or gender.

While the above medical malpractice errors may be unintentional, the results can be dire for patients and their families. Cancers that are not diagnosed early can cost valuable time and the opportunities to seek out different treatment options, clinical trials and other means of recovery.

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