Receiving an incorrect cancer diagnosis, whether it is a positive diagnosis when you do not have cancer or a negative diagnosis when you do have the disease, is an issue because it leads to stress, strain on the body and financial impacts. A missed diagnosis can lead to more serious effects from the disease because it can then continue to grow and attack your body.
Getting a cancer diagnosis correct is the goal of every health care provider, but WebMD explains that there are many ways in which a doctor could miss cancer cells or mistake them for something else. Sometimes it is due to a lack of knowledge. It may be due to the misuse of testing equipment. Many times, it is simply human error.
Health professionals may have a difficult time spotting some types of cancer. This could happen with rare cancers that doctors have never seen before or that present differently than other types of known cancers. Rare cancer types do not have the research behind them to help give doctors the tools and knowledge to diagnosis them.
Determining cancerous cells from those that are noncancerous is not an exact science. It can take multiple tests and different procedures to determine if cells are cancer or something else. It is easy to think something is cancer when it is not, even if you have extensive training.
Some tests do not provide clear results and may show up as cancer when there is no cancer. It is also possible for a doctor to mistake cancer for infection because they sometimes look alike on imaging. There are many types of cancer tests, and some types of cancer are so rare that there are not really any options for specific diagnostic procedures.
It comes down to doctors being willing to work hard at determining what is wrong and not giving up until he or she has an answer. If a doctor drops the ball, then that is when misdiagnosis happens.