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Rare diseases aren't all that rare

According to the World Health Organization, there are 400 million people throughout the world who have what are referred to as rare diseases. It is believed that only 500 of the 7,000 known rare conditions can be treated to any degree. A Georgia resident may have a rare condition if he or she is one of less than 200,000 people to have it.

The majority of such patients are children, and a diagnosis is often made when the condition has progressed significantly. This is because a rare disease may initially present as another type of cancer or other health ailment. A survey of 6,000 people with rare conditions found that a quarter were not properly diagnosed for up to 30 years. Patients can help themselves by seeking regular treatment and keeping track of any subtle or major changes to their health.

This is important because those who have a disease like gallbladder cancer may not experience any symptoms. If a person has mesothelioma, a doctor may think that he or she has a cold or other condition instead. This is because mesothelioma causes shortness of breath and chest pain similar to what would happen to someone with asthma or pneumonia. If a condition isn't diagnosed until a later stage, it can be more difficult to treat properly.

A patient who is not properly diagnosed could be the victim of medical malpractice. This generally occurs when a doctor or other medical professional fails to take an action despite having the tools or knowledge to do so. Evidence of malpractice may include doctor statements or failing to run tests to confirm or deny a doctor's theory. Compensation may be available in a malpractice case for medical bills and other damages related to a medical professional's diagnostic error.

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