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Why skin cancer is overlooked and misdiagnosed

The most common form of cancer in the United States happens to be skin cancer. This is enough information to know it is a serious problem. Unfortunately, doctors often overlook or misdiagnose skin cancer. Doctors and patients can both look over a mole and not take it seriously. This can result in devastating consequences because early diagnosis and treatment are important.

How do doctors fail to diagnose skin cancer? What can you do to reduce the risk of this happening? Here is an overview of skin cancer misdiagnosis and what you should do.

Doctor mistakes

There are various reasons a doctor may fail to diagnose or delay a diagnosis, including:

  • Failure to consider family history of skin cancer
  • Failure to refer a patient to a dermatologist
  • Failure to complete a full physical exam
  • Failure to remove a mole or growth that is suspect

Sometimes doctors and patients alike brush aside early signs of skin cancer. This is because symptoms do not always follow the obvious rules. It is easy to mistake various lesions, lumps and other skin problems for harmless moles, irritations or allergic reactions. Doctors may also fail to properly diagnose skin cancer if it requires performing a biopsy on an especially visible area, such as the face. 

What you should do

A dermatologist is more likely to successfully identify and treat skin cancer than a family doctor or general practitioner. You should receive a full-body exam each year from a dermatologist. Get in the habit of performing at-home exams each month. Take note of any changes in color, shape or size of any moles or lesions.

If skin cancer is not caught early, it could spread and lead to dire consequences. If your doctor fails to properly diagnose skin cancer, it could potentially amount to medical malpractice. 

Learn more about misdiagnosis of skin cancer by reading this report from health journalist Julie Relevant.

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