When you are dealing with severe health issues, you want answers and solutions so you can feel better. You go to the doctor trusting in his or her years of education and experience to pinpoint the problem and formulate an effective treatment plan.

This usually happens according to expectation, but more often than you think, doctors misdiagnose patients. The Washington Post reports that it happens in 21% of cases, with additional cases involving incomplete diagnoses. One of the most common diseases to misdiagnose is cancer, which is why you should always seek a second opinion to confirm the first.

What constitutes misdiagnosis?

Misdiagnosis can be more than just naming the wrong medical condition. It can also entail missing the diagnosis altogether or coming to the diagnosis too late.

A related mistake is overdiagnosing, which is increasingly common when it comes to cancer due to early, aggressive screenings. Overdiagnosis is not the same as misdiagnosis. It is instead finding evidence of cancers so small and so insignificant that they may never have a tangible effect on the patient. This can lead to unnecessary anxiety and invasive treatments.

How does cancer misdiagnosis happen?

Cancer is a complex disease. It can have symptoms that mimic other conditions or be a type so rare that medical professionals know little about it. There is even a chance that a test can simply fail to detect a tumor.

Despite these challenges, health care providers must take steps to increase their accuracy in cancer diagnosis, and when they do not, you may be able to file a medical malpractice lawsuit. Examples of negligence include the following:

  • Ignoring your symptom claims (especially common with women and minorities)
  • Not performing tests soon enough or at all
  • Misinterpreting test results
  • Not referring you to a specialist

These errors lead to more complications, reduce your chances of recovery. Getting a second opinion may help prevent these consequences.