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For patients, misdiagnosis can be deadly

People in Pennsylvania who seek out medical care often worry that they won't be taken seriously when they go to the doctor. They are concerned that something seriously wrong may be missed due to a physician's dismissiveness, lack of knowledge or negligence. They may have good reason for concern as some estimates say that up to 80,000 people lose their lives in American hospitals each year as a result of mistaken diagnoses. People who are misdiagnosed do not receive treatment for their conditions, allowing their illness to worsen and progress. Some may receive treatments for other illnesses that they do not have, which can be harmful in some cases.

Estimates indicate that up to 160,000 people across the country are seriously harmed by doctor errors every year. Some conditions are more likely than others to lead to serious problems in case of a misdiagnosis. In a recent study, researchers identified cancer, vascular problems and infections as the three conditions in which mistakes were most likely to lead to serious harm to a patient's health. Because cancer is a progressive disease with early diagnosis having a major impact on outcomes, failure to diagnose cancer is most likely to be deadly. Over 33% of mistaken diagnoses related to cancer in the study led to the patient's death.

Errors in diagnosing vascular issues like strokes or heart attacks were also serious with 22% of patients losing their lives after an incorrect diagnosis. Another 13.5% of patients died after inaccurate diagnoses of their infections, including pneumonia, meningitis and sepsis. Lung cancer victims were particularly likely to be misdiagnosed.

When cancer or another illness spreads and progresses as a result of a medical error, the consequences can be significant. People who suffered worsened health due to a doctor's mistake may wish to consult with a medical malpractice attorney about their options to take legal action.

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