11 Horrifying Near-Death Stories That Prove You Should Always Get A Second Opinion

Sometimes that headache really is cancer.

We've all heard horror stories of people being misdiagnosed—when they're told a symptom is relatively harmless, but it turns out that something is very seriously wrong. No matter how great a doctor is, they are only human, and people make mistakes. That's why if your doctor's diagnosis ever feels off, it's always worth seeking a second opinion. Recently, a Reddit user asked doctors to share a moment when they thought, "Thank God this patient came in for a second opinion," and the responses were shocking. Read on for the most horrifying ones. And to find out what symptoms you should always share with medical professionals, check out 10 Things Doctors Say Patients Should Tell Them, But They Never Do.

The Vision Impairment that Was a Tumor

Doctor in lab coat

Reddit user and eye doctor @coltsblazers wrote about a patient that came in for a second opinion because his previous doctor didn't seem to ask enough questions about his medical history. So the doctor did a peripheral vision test, and "was shocked by the most classic tumor pattern [they had] ever seen." It was a pituitary adenoma causing bitemporal hemianopsia. He had surgery shortly afterwards and lived, and thanked the doctor for saving his life.

The Cough that Was a Rare Lung Cancer

female health concerns after 40

The same Reddit user also shared "a cautionary tale why urgent cares should NEVER treat eye issues." A woman had gone to a clinic complaining of a "red, painful eye," and the urgent care doctors gave her antibiotics because they assumed it was a mild infection that would go away on its own. "I took one look at her and knew it was a herpes simplex infection in her cornea. She was in pain and had been mistreated for two weeks," the doctor wrote.

She also had a bad cough that the urgent care clinic had dismissed as a mild virus. "I told her to get it checked with a pulmonologist because it didn't sound like pneumonia and it wasn't getting better. I saw her three months later to monitor her corneal appearance and she came in using a wheelchair. Turns out … she had a really rare small cell lung cancer."

Thankfully, they caught it early. "The pulmonologist said I'd saved her life," the Redditor wrote. And for more misdiagnoses to look out for, here are The Most Misdiagnosed Women's Health Issues You Need to Know.

The Headache that Was Testicular Cancer

Movemember is about men's prostate health.

Reddit user @Quadruplem wrote about a 22-year-old man who came in complaining of a headache. "I did a usual full review of symptoms since he was new and … his left testicle had a lump," the doctor wrote, suspecting it was metastatic testicular cancer.

The Redditor's suspicions were confirmed by an ultrasound. When asked if he had mentioned the lump to his other doctor, the patient said that he had but that the doctor said it was normal. "Fellows, if you note a lump on your testicle, ask for an ultrasound and don't be embarrassed to bring it up," the Redditor wrote. And for more topics to be honest about with your doctor, here are 40 Things You Should Never Lie to Your Doctor About After 40.

The Heart Burn That Was a Heart Attack

elderly man heart attack hospital

Former ER volunteer @Kent_Knifen wrote about an elderly gentleman "brought in by his concerned adult children for chest pain. He wanted to believe his primary doctor that it was just some gas or heart burn, but his son 'just had a gut feeling' and made him go to the ER with everyone so he could get checked out," he wrote. "Heart attack was imminent, , like, we weren't sure if treatment would take effect in time to prevent it. Declared code blue, all hands on deck, place went from a quiet, empty ER to sheer chaos in a few minutes. There is no doubt in my mind that that 'gut feeling' saved his life."

The Brain Bleed One Doctor Called Fatigue

african american doctor with baby

Reddit user @-alsocuteandfluffy- shared a story about their father, a pediatrician specializing in neurological issues. "One if his patients at the hospital got dragged into the NICU unexpectedly by a nurse who insisted a baby wasn't well. The attending doc insisted the kid was fine and just tired from a difficult vacuum assist delivery," the Redditor wrote.

The Redditor's father could tell something was wrong and "managed to talk the parents into a brain scan. The NICU doc insisted my dad was nuts to the parents. Dad was right and the kid had a brain bleed and was rushed to surgery. The baby would have died without the nurse bringing my dad in and the parents listening to him. As is, that extra time almost certainly cost brain function." And for more signs you should see a specialist, here are 25 Subtle Ways Your Body Is Saying, "Go to the Doctor!"

The Tumor a Radiologist Thought Was "Artifact"

misdiagnoses horror stories

Eye doctor @OscarDivine recounted a story of a 50-year-old woman who came in for a routine eye exam. While her vision seemed fine, there was something about her pupils that didn't feel right to the doctor. After asking more questions, it turned out she had had a brain tumor removed a few years prior.

"My examination revealed that her tumor had returned with an incredible vengeance," the doctor wrote. "She had no idea, was totally asymptomatic and the CT she had prior to me showed what was very literally the size of a spec of dust, which the radiologist dismissed as 'artifact.'"

Within two weeks, that "spec of dust" had turned into a tumor the size of a quarter. "She was rushed into emergency surgery as the tumor was growing very fast and was close to a blood vessel, which could cause a massive stroke. She had it removed that day and returned to me after recovery to tell me of what got discovered as a result of my testing."

The Melanoma Primary Care Physicians Ignored

woman getting mole checked at the dermatologist, hand sanitizer germs
Shutterstock/Gordana Sermek

Dermatologist @BoisterousPlay wrote that they had seen at least five instances in which someone who had melanoma—a form of skin cancer—came in because of something their primary care physician said was nothing to worry about.

"A lot of times people don't want a full skin exams. There are lots of perfectly sane reasons for this: time, perceived cost, history of personal trauma," the dermatologist explained. "However, I routinely find cancers people don't know they have. Keep this in mind if you see a dermatologist for acne and they recommend you get in a gown."

For a personal testimony on the importance of getting a full dermatological exam, read This Is What Life Is Like After a Cancer Diagnosis.

The Man With Multiple Sclerosis Whom One Doctor Called a "Hypochondriac"

senior doctor talking to patient

Reddit user @PrimeGuard wrote about a 19-year-old patient who came in for therapy after his primary care physician "yelled at him for being a hypochondriac and saying his symptoms were all in his head and that he was just trying to fish for disability." It seemed obvious that he had some sort of neurological issue so the Redditor ordered an MRI and, sadly, it turned out he had Multiple Sclerosis. @PrimeGuard reported the original doctor to their chief of clinical services.

The Psychosis That Evaded Doctors

things women don't understand about men

Psychiatrist @nicholasdennett recounted the chilling story of a 30-year-old man who came in complaining of mild depressive symptoms but seemed otherwise fine. "He was under pressure from his home life, living with four roommates who were making life a bit difficult for him. No suicidal thoughts. He was cleared of all psychopathologies by me and two other doctors," the psychiatrist wrote. "A few months later he came back. Same symptoms, however this time he talked about five roommates. It felt wrong, and I digged in his story. Tried to contact his roommates. He lived alone and was severely psychotic. I have no idea to this day how he hid it so well from everyone."

The Near-Fatal Post-Surgery Infection

hip replacement surgery

One Reddit user's grandmother had lingering pain in her hip after getting it replaced. "She asked multiple doctors and did multiple X-rays, but doctors said the replaced hip was fine." Her family finally made her go to a private clinic, and the new doctor found an enormous amount of pus in her leg. "If my grandmother waited any longer, her blood would [have] become infected and she would have died," the Redditor wrote. "Thank goodness she went to the clinic."

The Undetected Stab Wound

doctor and patient in hospital

Emergency medicine doctor @skyskimmer12 shared a truly horrifying tale about a 21-year-old man who was told by his previous physician that he had a "rapid heart rate and breathing rate, low blood pressure, low oxygen, confusion, and a severe opacification on his chest X-ray on the right side." He'd been diagnosed with pneumonia, given antibiotics, and put on a ventilator, but he wasn't improving so he was transferred to the ER.

"An hour later, the gentleman arrives, and looks young, fit, and not the type to just drop dead from pneumonia. We roll him onto our stretcher and find… a huge stab wound in his back. … His entire right chest full of blood. We put a tube in it, gave him back some blood, and he had to go for surgery to fix the bleeding." The lesson? "Look at your patient," the Redditor wrote. And for more things medical professionals miss, here are 20 Things Your Doctor Is Likely to Get Wrong.

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Diana Bruk
Diana is a senior editor who writes about sex and relationships, modern dating trends, and health and wellness. Read more
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