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Worcester Medical Malpractice Law Blog

Identifying the symptoms of endometriosis

Endometriosis is a medical condition in which tissue usually found in the uterus begins to develop in other parts of the body. Massachusetts women should know that the condition occurs is almost one in every ten adult females, and many women are unaware of its symptoms. Women may attribute the symptoms they are experiencing to their monthly period. Common indicators of endometriosis include painful sex, bowel movements, urination and other pelvic issues.

Two-thirds of women are acquainted with someone who has the condition. However, according to a survey conducted by a nonprofit organization, only 29 percent of women can accurately identify its symptoms. The lack of informed communication about the symptoms of endometriosis can result in the delay of a diagnosis. According to the survey, there are some women who exhibit symptoms for up to 10 years before they receive a diagnosis.

Diagnosing congenital heart defects

Massachusetts residents may be interested in learning about how congenital heart defects are diagnosed. Severe cases of this condition are usually detected in babies before they are born or immediately afterward, and mild instances are often not diagnosed until children become older. Mild congenital heart defects often do not produce any symptoms or signs, so physicians may diagnose children with this ailment because of results from a test or exam that was administered for another reason.

Pediatric cardiologists, physicians who are specially trained in caring for children and babies with heart problems, are typically the ones that diagnose congenital heart defects. To do this, they use a stethoscope to listen to a child's lungs and heart and look for anything that could point to a heart defect such as delayed growth, rapid breathing, signs of heart failure, shortness of breath or cyanosis, which is a bluish tint to the fingernails, lips or skin.

Some cases of acute kidney damage may be misdiagnosed

Some individuals in Massachusetts who believe that they are suffering from an acute kidney injury may have actually been misdiagnosed. The reason is that the blood test for kidney damage may only indicate a temporary condition. Among patients admitted annually to hospitals throughout the country, 5 to 7 percent are diagnosed with acute kidney injury. The percentage rises to 30 to 50 percent for patients in intensive care.

The blood test for kidney damage measures the amount of a substance called serum creatinine. This is a waste product that the kidneys remove. It passes from the body during urination. While a change in creatinine levels can often indicate a kidney injury, sometimes the change is only temporary. According to the study, the creatinine level of almost three-fourths of the patients diagnosed with acute kidney injury was back to normal in a matter of days. This could mean these patients never had kidney damage.

Both patients and doctors contribute to misdiagnoses

Massachusetts patients may be wondering how a diagnosis can go wrong. While many patients are quick to blame the doctors, there is actually a multitude of factors that can result in a misdiagnosis or delayed diagnosis.

There are many reasons why a doctor may make a wrong diagnosis. There are more than 20,000 known human diseases, and many doctors are only familiar with the most common ones. Therefore, a general practitioner is not going to be as adept at diagnosing rare conditions as a specialist. Diseases that are highly publicized are also often overdiagnosed. These factors, along with doctor bias, which happens when a doctor diagnoses an ailment as being a disease he or she sees occurring frequently, are all reasons why patients get the wrong diagnoses.

False results may scare women away from mammograms

Massachusetts women may be interested in the findings of a study on mammograms and the effects of false-positive results. The study indicates that women may react to a breast cancer scare that turns out to be a false alarm by skipping their next test.

A false positive can happen when something on the mammogram looks like it could be cancer but it turns out not to be. When someone gets a cancer diagnosis, this can cause great emotional stress plus the necessity of undergoing more medical procedures. The study concluded that women who go through the experience of a false positive on a mammogram may be hesitant to have another one.

WHO calls for earlier detection, treatment of cancer

According to the World Health Organization, efforts worldwide to detect cancer earlier need to be increased. Unnecessary suffering and death is often the result of a late diagnosis. The WHO named colorectal, cervical and breast cancer in particular as cancers that benefit from being detected and treated early. Another advantage of early detection is that treatment tends to be less expensive. Furthermore, people who are treated early are more likely to be able to continue working and supporting themselves and their family.

Around 8.8 million people die of cancer each year, and overall, cancer accounts for almost one in every six deaths worldwide. The number of people who develop cancer annually is expected to rise from 14 million to 21 million by 2030. The WHO cited a number of obstacles to early detection and treatment including a lack of diagnostic services in many countries and the inability of people to pay out of pocket for care.

Different opinions on prostate cancer screening

Many men in Massachusetts undergo routine prostate cancer screening through the prostate-specific antigen test, or PSA. However, the reliability and benefits of these tests have been called into question. Some people in the medical community believe that men who are diagnosed with prostate cancer suffer more from the treatment that they receive than from the cancer that they may or may not actually have.

There is agreement in the medical community that a prostate cancer diagnosis does not have to lead to immediate treatment. Prostate cancer generally grows slowly in older men, and doctors often recommend watchful waiting rather than treatment. However, few men who are diagnosed with prostate cancer actually follow the watchful waiting strategy. Men who elect to have surgery for prostate cancer could sustain injuries from invasive surgery that lead to impotence and incontinence.

Women at more risk for cervical cancer than previously believed

Massachusetts residents interested in health and medicine may like to know about a cervical cancer study recently published in the journal "Cancer." Researchers looked at data from multiple sources when examining cervical cancer deaths that occurred between 2000 and 2012. Previous rates measuring risk for fatal cervical cancer did not account for gender, and the rate is higher when removing women who have had hysterectomies.

A hysterectomy procedure removes the cervix. Women without cervices are far less likely to develop cervical cancer. However, the previous estimates of cervical cancer death rates did not factor this into the results. When adjusting for hysterectomies, cervical cancer had a 77 percent higher risk rate in black women and a 47 percent higher risk rate in white women.

Medical study questions the reliability of mammograms

Thousands of Massachusetts women undergo mammogram screenings each year for breast cancer. However, a group of Danish researchers claims that many of these tests could be doing more harm than good. The researchers, who published the results of their study on Jan. 9 in the Annals of Internal Medicine, say that women often undergo invasive and unnecessary cancer treatments because mammograms detect tumors that pose no real danger.

The researchers claim that as many as one in three women who undergo mammogram screening will receive some sort of unnecessary treatment as a result. A leading figure at the American Cancer Society broadly agreed with the findings contained in the Danish report and added that the fear and emotional strain caused by a false positive breast cancer diagnosis should not be overlooked. A representative from the American College of Radiology conceded that mammograms sometimes lead to unnecessary radiation treatment, surgery and chemotherapy, but said that the problem was far less serious than the Danish study claims.

U.S. cancer death rates have fallen since 1991

Cancer death rates around the country have fallen by about 1.5 percent each year during the last 10 years for both women and men according to a report released on Jan. 5 by the American Cancer Society. The organization says that this has resulted in about 2.1 million lives being saved, many of them being Massachusetts residents. Overall, cancer death rates have fallen by about 25 percent since 1991.

A positive outcome in cancer cases is often dependent on an early diagnosis, and the fall in colorectal cancer deaths is largely a result of more Americans having regular colonoscopies according to the ACS. Doctors are also moving away from less effective cancer screening methods such as the controversial prostate-specific antigen blood test. Researchers have found that PSA blood tests have often diagnosed the condition in patients who are cancer-free and missed prostate cancer in men who suffer from the disease.

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