Patients and doctors need to communicate to avoid diagnosis errors

An increasing number of physicians and public health authorities are questioning the continued over-testing of patients throughout the country. These medical professionals are particularly concerned about the potential for making a misdiagnosis, but they are also worried that overexposure to radiation and other medical testing hazards could actually cause health problems while trying to detect health concerns amongst patients.

Still, a review in a prominent medical journal reports that overexposure to some screenings like breast cancer screening ultimately identifies more actual cases of cancer, which can save more lives. However, some false positives and misdiagnoses do arise. Those occurrences happen when a test identifies a person as having cancer when the disease is not actually present or is not as severe as it is identified to be. This could result in unnecessary treatment or medication errors.

An increasing number of professionals are arguing that certain minor cancers detected in screenings would never have caused any health problems. Women are receiving invasive treatments for abnormal screening results, including chemotherapy and radiation treatments. At the same time, earlier diagnosis of breast cancer has increased the overall survival rate from about 41 percent in 1971 to nearly 80 percent by 2007.

Experts say that about 4,000 women receive unnecessary treatment for minor forms of breast cancer each year when detected early from screenings. Still, about 1,300 lives are saved thanks to the intensive screenings. In other words, for every life that is saved, at least three women are over-diagnosed and inappropriately exposed to rigorous treatment procedures.

Women and their physicians must work together to determine an appropriate course of action when cancer is detected from screenings in order to avoid an over-diagnosis, misdiagnosis or a medication error from unnecessary treatment. Sometimes invasive treatment may not be the best option for patients. In other cases, invasive treatment may be absolutely necessary.

Source: Reuters, “Breast-cancer checks save lives despite over diagnosis,” Chris Wickham, Oct. 30, 2012

  • Our firm has experience assisting Illinois families harmed by medical malpractice, including a misdiagnosis or medication error. To learn more about our firm and practice, please visit our Will County medical malpractice page.

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