According to AARP, doctors misdiagnose about 12 million adults in the United States every year. These diagnostic errors cause 40,000 to 80,000 deaths.
The problem is so common that most people will have at least one missed or misdiagnosed condition in their lifetime. Some conditions are more likely to result in misdiagnosis than others.
Conditions most likely to result in a misdiagnosis
A study in JAMA Internal Medicine found that these 10 conditions are more likely to result in misdiagnosis than any others:
- Colorectal, breast, lung, prostate and bladder cancers
- Heart attack
- Brain hemorrhage
- Pulmonary embolism
Additionally, heart failure, pneumonia, urinary tract infections and kidney failure are often misdiagnosed by primary care physicians.
Tips for preventing a misdiagnosis
There are steps you can take to reduce your risk of receiving the wrong diagnosis. Make the most out of your appointments by writing down a list of your symptoms and concerns and presenting it to the doctor at your appointments. This allows your doctor to spend more time thinking about your issue and less asking you questions. Question any diagnosis you receive. Ask how your doctors arrived at that diagnosis and what they ruled out first.
If your condition does not improve with treatment, do not assume the treatment is the issue. Ask your doctor to reconsider your diagnosis. If you still think your diagnosis may be incorrect after taking these steps, seek a second opinion. About 20% of people who ask for a second opinion get a different diagnosis, according to Mayo Clinic.
Misdiagnosed conditions can have severe consequences for patients. Patients should be aware of the potential for misdiagnosis and take steps to prevent it.