One of the most common forms of medical malpractice is misdiagnosis.  This occurs when a doctor either fails to make a diagnosis or misdiagnoses the patient with the wrong illness. 

A patient who has been misdiagnosed can continue to suffer injury if they are not receiving the treatment required for their true illness.  Also, if a patient is receiving treatment for the wrong illness the underlying condition make worsen or result in painful side effects.


1.  Cancer

Many forms of cancer are misdiagnosed.  The most commonly misdiagnosed forms of cancer include:

  • Lymphoma;
  • Sarcoma;
  • Melanoma; and
  • Breast cancer.

There are a number of conditions that can cause the misdiagnosis including missing information in a patient’s medical history or not enough time given during a routine exam to properly evaluate the patient for signs of cancer.

2.  Lyme Disease

Lyme disease is a bacterial infection, usually caused by a tick bite.  This disease usually begins with symptoms of a rash, fever, headache and fatigue.  However, if it is not treated early the infection can spread to the patient’s joints, heart and nervous system.  Due to similar symptoms, this illness may be mistaken for the flu, fibromyalgia, meningitis or depression. 

The following symptoms are often associated with lyme disease:

  • Shortness of breath;
  • Muscle and joint pain;
  • Soreness of the chest and ribs;
  • Nausea and vomiting;
  • Skin rash;
  • Stiffness of the neck; and/or
  • Face twitching.

3.  Lupus

Lupus is a chronic inflammatory disease that involves damage to major organs, joint pain and a rash.  This condition can affect the joints, kidneys, brain, skin and lungs.  As this disease presents in many different ways and mimics other ailments, it is difficult to diagnose.

4.  Celiac Disease

Celiac disease is a severe immune reaction to gluten that causes inflammation in the small intestine.  Patients who suffer from celiac disease are unable to properly digest foods that contain gluten, such as rye, wheat and barley.

The following are some symptoms often associated with celiac disease:

  • Vomiting;
  • Diarrhea;
  • Weight loss;
  • Bloating;
  • Joint pain;
  • Acid reflux;
  • Anemia;
  • Leg cramps;
  • Itchy skin;
  • Heartburn; and/or
  • Headaches.

The difficulty in diagnosing celiac disease is that the symptoms mimic other medical conditions, such as irritable bowel syndrome or Crohn’s disease.  It is not uncommon for it to take several years before a patient has been properly diagnosed with celiac disease.

5.  Rheumatoid Arthritis

Rheumatoid arthritis is an autoimmune disorder that causes inflammation and the painful swelling of joints.  This disorder, in its early stages, mimics other diseases with similar symptoms of aches or joint stiffness.  In order to properly diagnose this disorder, doctors need to take a thorough medical history and the patient should undergo a careful and thorough physical exam.

6.  Multiple Sclerosis

Multiple sclerosis is a serious autoimmune disease.  This disease is progressive and attacks the central nervous system by disrupting communication between the brain and other parts of the body.  The symptoms associated with MS are often episodic and occur in bursts that can be difficult to pinpoint.  The only way to diagnose this disease is through the use of tests such as an MRI and invasive tests like spinal taps.

7.  Fibromyalgia

Fibromyalgia is a condition characterized by widespread musculoskeletal pain and accompanied by fatigue, sleep, memory and mood issues.  This is another condition that is difficult to diagnose as it is not the only condition with the symptom of widespread pain. 

In order to diagnose fibromyalgia, a doctor will need to run a number of tests to rule out other diseases first as they look for an explanation of the patient’s symptoms.  Also, a patient could have other conditions at the same time as fibromyalgia such as Lyme disease, arthritis or obstructive sleep apnea. 

8.  Hypothyroidism

Hypothyroidism is a condition caused when the thyroid gland produces an insufficient amount of hormones that help regulate weight, energy and mood.  If left untreated, this condition can cause serious health problems, such as obesity, joint pain, infertility and heart disease.

This condition is frequently misdiagnosed because the symptoms are non-specific and mistaken for other health problems.  In the early stages, there may be no symptoms or vague symptoms, but as thyroid hormone production decreases the body reacts by showing symptoms of fatigue, weakness, sleepiness and the inability to concentrate.


You may have a claim for medical malpractice if a misdiagnosis would not have been made by another well-trained, reasonable medical professional.  Many of the conditions described above can be properly diagnosed when a physician with fundamental training and knowledge provides the proper care to their patients.

To recover financial compensation based on a missed diagnosis or mistaken diagnosis, a claimant would generally need to prove the following:

  • He/she was a patient of the physician and sought a medical diagnosis;
  • The doctor failed to follow accepted medical practices and procedures;
  • The doctor misdiagnosed the patient as a result of carelessness;
  • The patient suffered preventable physical or financial harm resulting from the missed or incorrect diagnosis.

If you have suffered serious injury from a medical misdiagnosis, it is highly recommended that you speak with an experienced medical malpractice lawyer who can assess your case and determine whether you are entitled to receive compensation for your injuries.

If you or a loved one are suffering from a worsening medical condition due to a physician’s misdiagnosis, a medical malpractice lawyer can investigate whether you have been the victim of a preventable medical error.

At Cuming & Gillespie LLP, we can assemble a team of legal and medical experts to ensure that you put forth the strongest case and receive the compensation you are entitled to.  With over 20 years of experience, the lawyers at Cuming & Gillespie LLP have handled many different types of medical malpractice claims, and have the experience and knowledge to evaluate your case and help you decide whether you should pursue a claim.  Contact us at 403-571-0555 or online today to book a free consultation.