Paula Brunt, a 45-year-old former beauty queen, went to the hospital more than 20 times over the course of eight months, because she was experiencing severe abdominal pain. Doctors there told her that it was merely caused by either the early onset of menopause or irritable bowel syndrome, and not to worry.
After her friends began asking her if she was pregnant, she persistently told her doctor that it was something else. It was then that they figured out that her pain was actually being caused by a tumor the size of a soccer ball.
“I was really embarrassed when people used to ask me if I was pregnant. My stomach had swollen massively and I was in agony,” she told Mirror.
Later that month, she underwent surgery. Test results then showed that she still had an immature teratoma, a rare form of ovarian cancer that usually affects women in their teenage years and in their 20s. This meant that she still needed more surgery, including a full hysterectomy, which is a medical procedure that removes the uterus.
The worst part is that her doctors still failed to get things right, even after all that. Following her procedures, they never referred her for chemotherapy to clear up the remaining cancer cells. Consequently, she is now constantly in agonizing pain, and needs to go on a 100-mile round trip each week to Birmingham Women’s Hospital to check to make sure her cancer margins haven’t grown.
“It’s so bad, I can’t even bend down to do up my shoe laces,” said Brunt. “I can’t work anymore – the whole thing has been a nightmare.”
Misdiagnosis is a much larger problem than most people might think. Each year, about 12 million Americans who seek outpatient medical care are misdiagnosed, according to a 2014 study published in BMJ Quality and Safety. That’s about one in 20 adult patients. Another study by the John Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore found that one out of every 71 cancer cases was misdiagnosed, and one out of five cancer cases was mis-classified.
The message here is clear. If a patient suspects his or her doctors have missed something, as was Brunt did, it’s best to seek out a second opinion. It could save the patient years of suffering, and even his or her life.