Nightly News   |  April 16, 2014

1 in 20 Patients Misdiagnosed Every Year

A new study found patients with conditions ranging from pneumonia to lung cancer could be misdiagnosed when they seek care outside of a hospital.

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This content comes from Closed Captioning that was broadcast along with this program.

>> the story we mentioned before the break making medical news tonight. new numbers out this evening telling a troubling story that millions of americans are getting the wrong diagnosis every year with many facing life threatening conditions. we get the story tonight from our chief medical reporter nancy snyderman .

>> reporter: mother of two went to her doctor with startling symptoms.

>> i knew something was wrong. i knew i didn't look well. i knew i didn't feel well.

>> reporter: she feared it could be colon cancer but her doctor never advised a colon screening. two years later a second opinion and the revelation that she had stage three colon cancer .

>> i was very, you know, scared, frustrated, upset, and of course, app pra hence sieve.

>> reporter: she is not alone. she's one of thousands of cases researchers looked at in a study published. it found one in every 20 patients is misdiagnosed, that's 12 million americans every year. of those misdiagnosis that could mean harm.

>> there was a clear missed opportunity to make a timely or correct diagnosis at that point of time.

>> reporter: the study found conditions ranging from pneumonia to anemia to lung and colon cancer could have symptoms unrecognized by a doctor when they seek care at a clinic, private office or emergency room . experts say the errors could be because doctors are overwhelmed with patients.

>> there is more specialization, more places to fall through the cracks, more studies and tests done for routine office visits.

>> reporter: judy has been cancer free for nearly three years. she hopes her cautionary tale helps others.

>> my advice, especially if you're a mom, go with your gut.

>> reporter: listen to your body and be a strong advocate. dr. nancy snyderman , nbc news, new york.