Because The Doctor Isn't Always Right

GENERIC health doctors question

It was a nagging cough that first sent Chuck Pandrea's wife Janet to her family doctor in Florida. She was then referred a specialist.

"It will be four years Sunday that she died," Chuck Pandrea says of his wife. "April 2nd. And to this day, I keep waiting for her, for her to walk in the door," he says, wiping back tears.

"He confirmed that she had non-Hodgkin's lymphoma in the very early stages. And the sooner we could start treatment, the better it would be," he says of the doctor.

Janet was told she needed chemotherapy.

"I went with her every time to, to the treatments. And she'd be sitting in that chair just religiously thinking it's going to make her feel better, make her better. And it didn't happen again," Pandrea says.

Less than three months later, Janet Pandrea was dead. Devastated, Chuck requested an autopsy, The Early Show's Dr. Emily Senay reports.

"He told me that she didn't have cancer and never did," Pandrea says. "She had a benign tumor on the, the thymus gland so she got treatments that she didn't need that killed her."

Everyone knows doctors can make mistakes. We have all heard the stories of spectacular medical disasters: giving the wrong medication, operating on the wrong side of the body, even operating on the wrong patient. While they grab the headlines these cases are in fact extremely rare. What could be a bigger problem, less discussed is the problem of misdiagnosis.

"Patients die every day in the United States with misdiagnosis," Dr. Robert Wachter says.

Wachter is chief of medical services at the University of California San Francisco. He also co-authored the book "Internal Bleeding, The Truth Behind America's Terrifying Epidemic of Medical Mistakes."

"People missing the diagnosis of someone with chest pain and having a heart attack. Or missing the diagnosis of cancer. It could be trivial," Wachter says. "It can be that the right diagnosis is found out later, and, and no harm, no foul. And it could be devastating most times doctors do get it right. And -- but what we've come to learn is the diagnostic errors are more common than people think."