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Early and accurate diagnosis of cancer can be the difference between life and death in many cases. One cancer survivor recently shared her harrowing story on Good Morning America in effort to prevent such delays in cancer diagnosis. The woman recounted her belief that she was initially misdiagnosed as a result of the “weight bias” of her treating physicians.
Weight bias occurs when physicians make a preconceived judgment about a patient based on their weight. It can affect how the physician communicates with the patient, performs physical examinations on the patient, diagnoses the patient, offers preventative treatment and prescribes medication and testing. Patients who have experienced weight bias frequently report that physicians fail to provide any true medical treatment other than advising overweight patients to lose weight.
Starting at the age of 17, the woman, who was overweight at the time, began experiencing symptoms which eventually led to a diagnosis of severe bronchitis and walking pneumonia. For three years after that initial diagnosis, she battled persistent coughing fits. Despite her continued complaints, she claims that her doctor body shamed her into believing that her excessive weight was the real issue. She recalls being told on numerous occasions that her health problems were related to weight. She now claims that her health issues were not taken seriously by medical professionals solely because of her weight.
Doctors who rely exclusively on visual cues to make proper determinations of medical conditions can become particularly susceptible to developing a weight bias against overweight patients. Obese patients have a higher risk for developing other medical conditions, which makes diagnosis more complex in those matters. By obtaining the proper training in obesity medicine and taking the time to consider all the options, physicians can avoid improper or missed diagnosis.
The woman in this case was finally properly diagnosed with carcinoid cancer in 2012 when a new team of doctors found a tumor in her bronchial tube. She eventually underwent surgery to completely remove her left lung. She and many others believe that if she received the proper medical diagnosis even two years earlier, her results may have been different. Six years post surgery, the woman remains an advocate for women’s health, encouraging women to trust their own bodies and avoid the stigma that many doctors continue to place on overweight patients.
Despite the fact that over two-thirds of adults in the United States are either overweight or obese, weight bias remains a problem. Patient advocacy groups, including experts in the field of obesity, continue to urge all patients to hold their health care providers accountable if the patient feels they are not being heard or taken seriously. Reducing weight-related stigma remains a goal of medical organizations throughout the United States.
When weight bias results in the misdiagnosis of a potentially fatal medical condition like cancer, tragedy can result. If you or a loved one has suffered physical injuries resulting from the failure of a medical professional to make the proper diagnosis or other form of negligence, you may be entitled to compensation under New Jersey’s medical malpractice laws.
Failure to make a proper diagnosis is just one type of medical malpractice claim that the experienced South Jersey medical malpractice lawyers at Folkman Law Offices, P.C. can handle on your behalf. Our offices are conveniently located in Cherry Hill, New Jersey, Philadelphia and King of Prussia, Pennsylvania, where we represent injured individuals and their families throughout the Philadelphia and South Jersey areas, including Burlington County and Camden County. To schedule a free consultation, call Folkman Law Offices, P.C. today at 856-354-9444 or submit an online inquiry form.