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Five Commonly Misdiagnosed Conditions

Published on July 27, 2015

A study published in the journal, BMJ Quality & Safety, shows that approximately 12 million adults in the U.S. are misdiagnosed every year – that’s at least 1 in 20 adults annually! With the frequency of diagnostic errors, it could happen to anyone. That’s why we’re sharing 5 commonly misdiagnosed conditions:

1.) Cancer

The Journal of Clinical Oncology reports that cancer misdiagnoses occur as often as 28 percent of the time, and up to 44 percent for certain types of cancer. Another study found that the most commonly misdiagnosed cancer conditions include lymphoma, breast cancer, sarcomas and melanoma. This is frequently due to fragmented or missing information, inadequate patient evaluation, and incomplete medical history.

Actress Suzanna Somers has shared her story of cancer misdiagnosis, which actually inspired her to write a book. Somers beat cancer after being diagnosed in 2001, but six years ago she was told her cancer was back and in full force.

She was in the hospital for 6 days before she found of she was misdiagnosed with cancer. Doctors told her she had a mass on her lungs, tumors covering her entire liver, and she had so many masses in her chest, they couldn’t even count them. They added that she also had a blood clot and pneumonia. To top it off, they told her the cancer was inoperable. She thought she had days left to live. Of course, none of this turned out to be true. It was later discovered that it was a mold fungus from living in a home she was renting that had black mold crawling everywhere – including the air-conditioning and heating vents.

2.) Heart attack

Since symptoms of heart attacks can vary, heart attacks are often misdiagnosed. Older people don’t have the same symptoms as younger people. A young person may have crushing chest pain and an older person may not feel anything or may think they have indigestion. Women are commonly misdiagnosed because they often don’t experience the classic symptoms of chest pain that men experience.

3.) Stroke

Researchers say doctors overlook or discount early signs of potentially disabling strokes of tens of thousands of Americans every year. The American Heart Association found that young adults with stroke symptoms are often misdiagnosed with vertigo, migraine, or alcohol intoxication. Regardless of age, symptoms such as vision problems, confusion, severe headache, numbness of the face, trouble speaking or trouble walking should be checked out immediately.

4.) Celiac disease

About 83 percent of people with celiac disease are either undiagnosed or have been misdiagnosed with other conditions. It is commonly misdiagnosed as irritable bowel syndrome. Symptoms for this disease vary widely, but often include: abdominal pain, constipation, diarrhea, headaches, joint pain or depression. Others may experience no outward symptoms at all.

5.) Pulmonary embolism

Typically caused by a blood clot, pulmonary embolism is a blockage of the pulmonary artery, the main artery in the lungs. Symptoms may include sharp chest pain, shortness of breath, fainting or anxiety. A study found that more than 33 percent of patients with pulmonary embolism were sent home or admitted to hospitals with a wrong diagnosis. This is often mistaken for other conditions like a heart attack or pneumonia. You can read everything you need to know about pulmonary embolisms on our blog.

Now that you’ve read the most commonly misdiagnosed conditions, you’ll want to read the 5 things you can do to avoid a misdiagnosis. The more you know, the better your chances of an accurate diagnosis.

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