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Rare diseases and medical misdiagnoses

Some people in Colorado may be misdiagnosed because they suffer from a rare disease. In the United States, a rare disease is one that affects fewer than 200,000 people in the country annually. For many rare diseases, treatments are few or are more effective at earlier stages, but the disease is rarely detected in time. Half of all people who suffer from rare diseases are children.

Mesothelioma, a type of cancer, is one example of a rare disease. Only around 3,000 people are diagnosed with it each year. Until it reaches a later stage, it is often misdiagnosed as asthma, pneumonia or a cold since its symptoms include chest pain and shortness of breath.

Misdiagnosis as a result of symptoms of a rare disease resembling another one is not uncommon; in a survey of 6,000 people, one quarter of them said it took 5 to 30 years for them to get a correct diagnosis. People should pay attention to any unusual symptoms that may arise and report them to their doctors.

Another issue is diseases that do not produce symptoms at all. This may be the case with gallbladder cancer.

Misdiagnosis can be a type of medical malpractice. The legal system recognizes that there is a difference between a condition that takes some time to diagnose because other possibilities must first be eliminated and one that goes undiagnosed because of a medical professional's negligence. Therefore, one element in determining whether medical malpractice has occurred is looking at whether the person received a reasonable standard of care based on how most medical professionals would have handled the situation. It is also necessary to demonstrate that the patient suffered harm as a result of the malpractice. Some medical professionals will settle with a patient out of court, but in other cases, a patient might pursue a lawsuit.

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