Doctors Misdiagnose Cancer as Knee Sprain

( – Doctors told a British police officer that she had a minor knee injury when in fact she had a dangerous tumor. Ellie Downes, who lives in the city of York, first noticed pain in her leg, close to her knee, in October 2020. The 27-year-old police officer visited the doctor and, on two separate occasions, was told it was a mere sprain that would put itself right with time.

Downes was unconvinced, however, and refused to let the matter drop. She persuaded medics to perform various tests, and a tumor around 10 cm in diameter was discovered at the rear of her knee. Further testing revealed that the tumor was osteosarcoma – a cancer that affects the bones. The patient underwent months of chemotherapy and is now cancer-free. However, she is speaking publicly about her ordeal to encourage others – patients and doctors – to carry out robust tests faster so that people don’t fall through the cracks and risk their lives.

Misdiagnosis by doctors is a serious medical concern, and approximately 795,000 Americans are affected by it every year – many of the wrongful diagnoses prove fatal, while others condemn patients to a life of illness or disability. A report from the Johns Hopkins Armstrong Institute Center for Diagnostic Excellence found 371,000 deaths and 424,000 cases of people becoming permanently disabled due to doctor error.

The paper said the estimated figures match “data from multiple prior studies that focused on diagnostic errors in ambulatory clinics and emergency departments and during inpatient care.”

A separate report in December 2022 revealed that around 8% of people who attend emergency departments are wrongly treated by medical staff. The US Department of Health and Human Services Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality published the study and found that between January 2000 and September 2021, there were 7.4 million misdiagnoses in American emergency rooms.

The top five conditions misdiagnosed are stroke, myocardial infarction, aortic aneurysm, spinal cord injury, and venous thromboembolism.

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