Cancer Misdiagnosis

The misdiagnosis of cancer is a serious medical concern that adversely impacts the recovery and prognosis of oncology patients. Yet, doctors often disagree as to the extent of the problem. According to an article in Boston Magazine, some doctors believe cancer misdiagnoses occur between 0 and 10% of the time while another survey finds the percentage of misdiagnoses to be around 28%. While doctors disagree about the frequency of cancer misdiagnosis, they agreed as to why these errors happen in the first place. “The top reasons were ‘fragmented or missing information across medical information systems’ (38.5 percent), ‘inadequate pathology diagnostic resources’ (22 percent), and ‘inadequate genetic/genomic information available at the time of diagnosis’ (20.3 percent). Doctors are also cognizant of what needs to be done to correct the problem. In the study, doctors were asked for possible ways to avoid misdiagnosis, or changes that need to be made the diagnostic system. The most popular answer, chosen by 36 percent of respondents, was “new or improved pathology tools and resources,” followed by “new or more readily accessible resources for tumor genetic testing” with 17.8 percent, and “new or improved radiology tools and resources” with 15 percent. From a research standpoint, 29 percent of surveyed doctors also felt that lawmakers should offer incentives to hospitals that are gathering data and presenting research about misdiagnosis.” Misdiagnoses increase healthcare costs and more importantly, serve as a serious threat to the welfare of patients. If new protocols and new technology would lessen the frequency of cancer misdiagnoses, they should by studied and implemented as soon as possible.

Holly Haines