As Sharon Akiror was showering one Monday morning, she noticed two small reddish lumps around the nipples of her right breast.
To the touch, they felt hard like half cooked beans. She panicked and rushed to the doctor about 200 metres from her home.
Before seeing him, the receptionist asked her to pay a consultation fee of Shs30,000, but Akiror had only Shs28,000, which her mother had given her.
“Just pay what you have. I will charge you the Shs2,000 the next time you come back here for treatment,” Akiror recalls the receptionist saying.
She was able to see the doctor who examined both breasts without asking about asking her past medical history. Afterwards, she was told to wait for an hour for the results.
“I was restless the entire time. I kept pacing up and down, biting my finger nails wondering what the problem could be,” the 24-year-old university student says.
The moment of truth finally came when the doctor called her back into his office.
“He offered a seat which I took while he sat on the opposite end,” she says. According to Akiror, the look in the doctor’s eye was serious.
“It was as if he was about to give me a life sentence,” she says.
“He told me that the two bumps were cancerous and that they needed to be removed,” Akiror recounts.
She remembers just walking out of his office and heading back home to cry. After sharing the news with a friend, she was advised to seek a second opinion from another doctor.
“This other doctor told me that they were just non-cancerous swellings caused by an allergic reaction and that they would disappear within two weeks.”
After this revelation, she decided to seek opinions from three other doctors.
They said the same thing, the lumps were non-cancerous and there was absolutely no need for her to worry herself.
Some people, however, have not been as lucky as Akiror who discovered early enough that the diagnosis she was given by the first doctor was wrong.
Some of them realise when it is rather too late, after spending a lot of money on medical bills and undergoing a series of treatments that were not intended for that particular ailment.
A case in point is that of 25-year-old Angella Nansikombi, also a university student. After developing swellings around her vagina, she visited a doctor who diagnosed it as a Urinary Tract Infection (UTI).
She received three injections within a month and was given tablets to swallow within the same time frame. The drugs often made her weak.
When the swellings on the other hand increased in number, she insisted that the doctor carries out another test. When he did, only to realise that she indeed had genital warts.
“I was angry at him for having made such a wrong diagnosis, mostly because I was afraid of the long-term effects of the drugs and also the additional expenses because, the bill had now accumulated to more than Shs280,000,” says the university studen.
WHY SUCH A MISHAP HAPPENS
Dr Alex Kakoraki, a general practitioner at Murchison Bay Hospital in Luzira explains that misdiagnosis is, in fact, a big problem in the medical field and it happens due to a number of causes brought about by the doctor and the patients themselves.
“If a medical officer examines a patient without analysing their past medical history or even uses the inappropriate equipment such as expired kits for carrying out tests, there is a probability of making a wrong diagnosis,” Dr Kakoraki says.
Another occurrence is when a patient is diagnosed by a wrong specialist.
“For instance, a pharmacist who goes ahead to play the role of a doctor and ends up coming up with something totally different from what a qualified medical practitioner would have stated,” he adds.