A misdiagnosis occurs in at least 1 out of every 20 patient encounters in doctors' offices, according to a study by researchers at the Houston Veterans Affairs Center for Innovation and Quality, Effectiveness and Safety and the Baylor College of Medicine. This translates into at least 12 million patients being misdiagnosed each year and, of these errors, at least half of these errors have the potential to cause severe harm. The rate of misdiagnosis malpractice in the primary care setting is higher than in any other area of medicine.
Breast cancer studies have looked at how cancer genetics, size, co-existing medical conditions and socioeconomic status affect outcome, but for the first time a study has looked at how delayed treatment affects survival. A new study looked at how a delay in treatment after biopsy confirmed diagnosis affects patient survival and found that for late stage cancers, this amount of treatment delay led to lower survival compared with other women similarly staged who did not suffer a delay in treatment. The study involved Medicaid patients in North Carolina who were diagnosed in 2000 - 2002 and were followed until July 2006.
Surgery for breast cancer after initial diagnosis is taking longer. A study at Fox Chase Cancer Center in Philadelphia of women between 1992 and 2005 showed that the average time between diagnosis and surgery increased from 21 days to 32 days. The time from the first cancer related visit to biopsy also increased. This increased treatment delay was greatest for black and Hispanic women and people who live in large cities. Although it is unknown how much of a difference this delay is making, the trend is problematic.