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Pancreatic cancer patients often misdiagnosed

Pancreatic cancer is often misdiagnosed by doctors in Pennsylvania and nationwide, according to a 2015 study by the University of Utah. However, a delay in diagnosis is not associated with a lower survival rate in patients.

Researchers examined the records of 313 patients with pancreatic cancer and discovered that 31.3 percent were initially misdiagnosed with other diseases. Of those patients, most were wrongly told they had gallbladder disease. Other common misdiagnoses were gastroesophageal reflux disease and peptic ulcer disease. Misdiagnosed patients had higher rates of abdominal pain, weight loss, nausea and/or vomiting and pancreatitis than those who had been correctly diagnosed. However, they had lower rates of jaundice. Both groups suffered from anorexia and diarrhea at equal rates.

While correctly diagnosed patients learned they had pancreatic cancer in less than a month, misdiagnosed patients had to wait approximately 3.5 months to learn they had the disease. Misdiagnosed patients were also nearly 1.5 times more likely to receive a stage III or stage IV cancer diagnosis. However, later stage diagnoses were not linked with poorer survival rates. To reduce misdiagnosis and delayed diagnosis, the lead author of the study encouraged surgeons to screen patients for pancreatic cancer when they are referred for cholecystectomy with "vague or atypical symptoms."

A doctor's failure to diagnose pancreatic cancer can lead to the spread of the disease and reduce a patient's chances of survival. Patients who have found themselves in this position and who have been harmed in such a manner may want to seek legal advice as to the steps they might be able to take to be compensated for their losses.

Source: Family Practice News, "DDW: Study finds pancreatic cancer misdiagnosis rate at 31%," July 6, 2015

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