Alarming number of doctors miss deadly signs 67



View Profile

A study of general practitioners, mostly in Western Australia and Victoria has found that a significant number could be missing symptoms that are widely believed to be red flags for cancer.

The study found as many as one in eight patients who show up at their GP’s office with cancer indicators could fail to have their symptoms further investigated or referred to a specialist.

Researchers from the University of Notre Dame in WA asked 102 GPs to make decisions based on 24 fictional video vignettes in which actors played patients presenting with typical cancer symptoms, as defined by the guidelines for referral developed by the UK National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE).

The results suggested some patients would have had delayed diagnosis and treatment.

The study found GP management of patients — their choice of prescription, investigation such as diagnostic tests, referral or prescription and referral together — varies significantly depending on the type of cancer suggested by a patient’s symptoms.

Patients depicted with symptoms that would breast, bladder, endometrial or lung cancer were less likely to receive a referral or prescription than those who “presented” with typical colorectal cancer symptoms.

Meanwhile, prostate cancer red flags were unlikely to be managed with a prescription but more likely to be given a referral and investigated.

Typical symptoms of pancreatic and cervical cancers were also more likely to be managed with a referral or with a referral plus investigation.

“The study is a wake-up call to GPs in some respects,” says lead investigator Professor Moyez Jiwa, a GP and academic from the university’s Melbourne Clinical School. “But more research needs to be done into this issue.”

Interestingly, the study found that doctors practising in rural and remote regions were more likely to request further investigation before requesting specialist referral.

Have you ever had to get a second opinion because your doctor missed symptoms? Would you seek a second opinion if you thought something was wrong, or would you trust your doctor? 

Starts at 60 Writers

The Starts at 60 writers team seek out interesting topics and write them especially for you.

  1. I would request a second, third and fourth opinion until I was satisfied. My husband suffers from Dystonia and was misdiagnosed by GP and specialists. They all diagnosed Arthritis and prescribed Arthritis medication. Did no good whatsoever. Eventually the specialist that was treating him for a different condition picked up on it. He referred him to a colleague and his condition was correctly diagnosed. His pain and symptoms have now been successfully controlled for 8 years. He is not getting any worse which is wonderful but we wonder what his condition would be if he had not be diagnosed. His GP had never heard of Dystonia and he is not alone. My research says that the majority of Dystonia sufferers are misdiagnosed and the consequences of that are horrendous. My advice – follow your instincts and persevere with the medical profession until you are satisfied. After it is your life.

    1 REPLY
  2. They can’t always get it right, after all they are human. But you do need to get another opinion if you’re not satisfied.

  3. Yes, I agree, some people just follow the doctors advice even knowing that taking that tablet for depression for example is doing more harm than good. Common sense is vital with everything and use a BIG dosage of it all the time.

  4. i think this happens because people over the years go to their doctor crying wolf so much that they are not taken seriously

    1 REPLY
    • Julie that’s being hash don’t you think…………. some patients have many chronic conditions for life ……… maybe a lucky one…………..unfortunately many GP may need a change in a their position as their tied and don’t care.

  5. My GP, that I’d gone to for 20 odd years, missed my Thyroid symptoms for more than 12 months; it took a locum in her place to find it. Sometimes it’s a case of familiarity.

    6 REPLY
    • Hi Kay unfortunately its happening far too much these days

    • Yes, quite a few years ago my sister said there was an article in the paper about hyperactive thyroids and that she was going to get hers checked. I told her I thought I may have sugar diabetes due to my unquenchable thirst and weight loss. Dr took a blood and said my sugar levels were fine and it was probably ‘age’. After a week I went to a different doctor, had blood tests and was diagnosed with Graves disease. That doctor said he’d seen a woman recently who was diagnosed with depression (you also get the shakes with Graves as your heart is beating faster) but had Graves dis. My sister was fine.

    • My regular doctor treated me for stress I kept complaining but still didn’t pick up my thyroid after 6 months I went to someone else and got picked up straight away

    • I do become extremely upset at times with the G.P. doctors as half the time they don’t listen.For over two years my Doctor had totally missed my graves disease.Had it been found sooner I would have been ok without all the suffering.Apart from the eyes been affected and my whole body so weak I couldn’t rise from a low position.Anyway if you are not happy go and get another opinion to be on the safe side.Doctors can misdiagnose and that’s when complications set in.

  6. My GP and the specialist thought the mole on my hip was okay, now I’m not one that likes needles etc, but my brain told me that this mole had to be removed …….. a level 3 melanoma. I would be dead by now if this hadn’t been removed. Always go with your gut feeling.

    2 REPLY
    • I nagged hubby relentlessly about a growth on his ear lobe and he took no notice. Then I saw a pictorial of cancer growth and knew for sure what it was. I took a pic and showed him. He went in a day or two and then it was all hands on deck. Referred to specialist, same day appointment with specialist who organised the hospital for surgery in two days time. Surgeon took off a couple of other nasties while he was at it. On the funny side, the surgeon has a Kiwi accent. Hubby said “That’s great. Straight from mulesing sheep to my ear”

    • The same with me Leone, surgery to remove, nice big scar now. The thing is, these damn nasty skin cancers keep popping up all over the place now, even though I haven’t been in the sun for years …… damage done in my teens 🙁

  7. Sadly had bad times with several doctors looking after my mum. Being elderly they did not care less!! She had lung cancer, could not breath and not one bothered to get an MRI done. She may still be with me today.

    1 REPLY
  8. I asked for tests for Ovarian cancer and my doctor said why? I said because my mother died from it and I guess it would have been at my age that it started. He looked relieved – because he has to have a reason for referring. That’s how much health cuts have affected what doctors do. All it was was a PSA test which has come back as normal. I don”t know what else to do to protect my health against this killer.

    2 REPLY
    • My husband has had a similiar experience. He suffers from reflux and has been taking 40mg Nexium for years with much success. On one visit to GP a few years ago Doc told him that he had been told by Health Department that he was prescribing too much 40mg Nexium and could only prescribe it for 2 months per patient and then prescribe 20mg dose. My husband duly got his 20mg script and immediately his symptoms reappeared. Went back to Doc and solution was 2 scripts of 20mg and fill both and take 2 tablets of 20mg instead one tablet of 40mg. This ridiculous situation went on for some time and then all of a sudden GP said they had relaxed the rules and back he went to 40mg. Terrible when bureaucrats in Health Department start telling GP what medication they can prescribe.

  9. I have had a lesion on my leg for 3 to 4 years that wouldnt heal. It kept getting infected – cellulitis, every couple months. Two years ago it was so bad I had a fortnight in hospital. I had seen a dr at our local A and E and my own GP. The A and E dr gave me the wrong antibiotics, which did nothing. I have been seeing a different GP for about 2 yrs, and he just hands over the script for more antibiotics. I had seen a dermatologist, who said the lesion was “nothing”. No tests, just looked at it. It was getting worse, so in May this year I asked the GP for a referral to another dermatologist. I had to wait 3 months to see him. I had a punch biopsy and I have squamous cell carcinoma. Now I have to wait another 2 months to see a plastic surgeon for an operation. And I may need chemotherapy and/or radiation.

    1 REPLY
    • So sorry to read about your experience. My husband had two episodes, one with the top of his ear bleeding and a year or so later his nose. After surgery to remove these he has not had another occurrence. Here’s hoping you have just as good an outcome.

  10. Our gut feeling is a pretty strong indicator that something is not quite right. I would get a second opinion, time is precious when dealing with your health as sometimes we don’t get a second chance. I went for three years once pursing somethings g I knew was not right, in the end I was correct. It resulted in surgery. Too many GP’s are quick to dismiss somethings, as there are many conditions that have similar symptoms, they can also be quite subtle. I think people feel they won’t be taken seriously, or you are. Hypochondriac. My daughter has Brain Cancer, this is a very overlooked disease, only usually an MRI or CT scan can be done, but they seem to hesitate to refer for this to happen. I think we have to be our own advocate for our health, no use looking back and saying, I should have insisted on this or this, if I had of done this or done that. We have to be proactive today, because often the alternative can be devasting, and Doctors are only human too. If I had one piece of advice for today’s GP’s it would be, LISTEN to your patient, one size doesn’t fit all. If you don’t know, or have doubts, get further testing or REFER them to someone who may know more. To the patient, never give up, if you have to get more than one opinion so be it, it could be the matter of life or death.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *