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Cancer Misdiagnoses Surprisingly Common

Joe Cantlupe, for HealthLeaders Media, February 7, 2013

Of the 400 physicians who were asked how often they estimate a misdiagnosis or incomplete characterization occurs in oncology, the vast majority, 60.5%, estimated that it happens "zero to 10%" of the time. Yet published research indicates significantly higher rates of misdiagnosis overall, from 15% to 28% of cases, the study showed.

Of the 400 pathologists, medical oncologists and surgical oncologists who participated in the survey, 79 said that lymphoma was the most misdiagnosed or mischaracterized cancer, followed by breast cancer, 53, and sarcomas, 51.

Referring to the findings, Evan Falchuk, vice-chairman of Best Doctors, says that "it's certainly surprising; [it's] a disconnect [between] what scientific surveys show on misdiagnosis and what doctors in the field say."

"We see in our work, [that] patients who are getting an incorrect diagnosis also often are getting an incorrect treatment plan," Falchuk says. "One of the big problems in healthcare is that there is not enough discussion or data evaluation of misdiagnosis after it occurs to help physicians deal with such issues.

As Falchuk sees it, "there's no feedback loop around this issue in medicine."

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