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Pediatric skin cancer misdiagnosed over one-third of the time

On Behalf of | Oct 19, 2020 | Medical And Professional Malpractice

Some parents may not even realize that their children are susceptible to skin cancer. According to Stanford Children’s Health, skin cancer is rare in children. Nevertheless, it can occur, especially in light-skinned children with red or blond hair and in children who have had significant exposure to sunlight.

Skin cancer is very treatable if diagnosed early. However, if not identified, it can spread to other areas of the body, making treatment more difficult. MD Edge Pediatrics reports on a study involving 28 children and young adults with skin cancer, 10 of whom initially received a misdiagnosis. This amounts to 36%, or over one-third, of the young people involved in the study.

Types of cancer

The patients involved in the study all had nonmelanoma skin cancer. The most common type of NMSC occurring in the study, affecting 19 patients in all, was basal cell carcinoma. BCC is also the most common type occurring in skin cancer patients generally. Squamous cell carcinoma was the second-most commonly occurring, affecting seven patients, while two patients had both SCC and BCC.

Delays in diagnoses

Skin cancer diagnosis depends mostly on visual inspection. A doctor who mistakes the lesion for something benign may not order tests to confirm or rule out malignancy. The study showed that doctors confused NMSC with benign skin conditions such as a wart, psoriasis and nevus, which is the medical term for a mole.

On average, it was 1,176 days, or over three years, between the initial onset and the eventual correct diagnosis of basal cell carcinoma for patients in the study. The interval was shorter for squamous cell carcinoma at 667 days, or just under two years. Fortunately, treatment measures were successful in the majority of cases. Nevertheless, the results of the study suggest that young patients with multiple risk factors for skin cancer may require heightened monitoring.