Cancer misdiagnosis makes it difficult or even impossible for patients to access life-saving medical care. An incorrect diagnosis is the leading cause of medical malpractice injury and death in the United States, affecting about 12 million Americans and causing up to 80,000 fatalities each year according to a study by Johns Hopkins Medicine. 

Get the facts about cancer misdiagnosis and earn more about the impact on a person’s health and livelihood. 

The scope of the problem

The Johns Hopkins study reports that cancer represents the most common misdiagnosis that results in death or serious injury. Nearly 40% of these cases involved cancer, most commonly lung cancer followed by lymphoma, breast cancer, sarcoma and melanoma. More than 71% of cancer misdiagnoses occur in an outpatient clinic or other ambulatory care setting. 

Potential effects of cancer misdiagnosis

When an individual has cancer and does not receive the correct diagnosis from his or her doctor, negative outcomes may include: 

  • The need for surgery, chemotherapy or other treatments that the person could have avoided with an earlier diagnosis 
  • Ill effects from unnecessary treatments ordered for an incorrect diagnosis 
  • Permanent disability or death, which occur in nearly 5% in cases involving diagnostic errors 

The clinical BMJ Quality and Safety Journal estimates the prevalence of cancer misdiagnosis at 28%. If you think your doctor may have failed to diagnose cancer or made an incorrect diagnosis, consider seeking a second opinion. If you experienced negative health effects after a delayed, incorrect or missed cancer diagnosis, you may have a valid medical malpractice case and be eligible for legal damages.