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How ovarian cancer can be misdiagnosed as PCOS

If a woman in Indiana is missing periods and has high levels of testosterone along with ovarian cysts, she could be suffering from polycystic ovarian syndrome. These are common symptoms of this common condition. However, there are also situations in which something more unusual but also more serious could be to blame, including ovarian cancer. This was the case for one 18-year-old.

Why misdiagnoses happen

One reason that some diseases or conditions are misdiagnosed is that they are rare. Doctors may not have ever seen a patient with a particular condition. Another reason for misdiagnosis is that the symptoms may be similar to those of another disease. Yet another reason is that the person may not fit the usual profile of a patient who would have that condition. When all three of these conditions are in place, it can make the diagnosis even more difficult. All of these things were true for the 18-year-old patient.

PCOS or cancer

In her case, her missed periods were accompanied by facial hair growth, suggesting the high levels of testosterone consistent with PCOS. The ovarian cysts that accompany PCOS affect hormonal balance but are not dangerous. For this young woman, PCOS appeared to be the obvious diagnosis. However, a biopsy revealed that she had a rare form of the already-rare ovarian cancer despite her young age.

A good standard of medical care

Responding to the symptoms early on and doing the biopsy meant that the cancer was caught before it could spread, and surgery was sufficient for treatment. In this situation, the patient received an excellent standard of care that led to early detection.

When a court is determining whether medical malpractice has occurred, one thing it looks at is what constitutes a reasonable standard of care. This means that it acknowledges that some conditions may be difficult to diagnose. However, doctors are supposed to be thorough in taking a person’s symptoms seriously and investigating them, and if they had not done so in the case, the cancer might have spread.

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