Lung Cancer misdiagnosis levels critical as GPs in UK ‘missing opportunities’

14 October 2014

Lung Cancer misdiagnosis levels critical as GPs in UK ‘missing opportunities’

Lung cancer is the biggest cause of cancer death in the UK causing 35,000 fatalities alone

Research by the British Medical Journal has revealed that lung cancer is not being spotted at an early enough stage by doctors in Britain: meaning that one in three people with lung cancer die within 90 days of diagnosis.

The study involved 20,142 people aged over 30, and discovered that one in 10 had died within a month of diagnosis. One in 20 had been diagnosed only after they had died.

Researchers said GPs needed better diagnostic tools, such as software to uncover early diagnosis. With more than 35,000 people a year dying of the disease, lung cancer is the biggest cause of cancer death in the UK. Mistreatment.com regularly helps members of the public with cases of lung cancer misdiagnosis, with a specialist cancer team handling enquiries relating to GP misdiagnosis of the deadly disease.

Lung Cancer Is Being Picked Up Too Late

At the University of Nottingham, scientists looked at the survival rates between those suffering from lung cancer compared to other countries. They found that the chances of an early death rose with the number of GP consultations a patient attended. The study went on to say that those who had died visited their GP an average of five times in the months before diagnosis. This mirrors findings at Mistreatment.com where many members of the public visited their GP months before diagnosis, only for the lung cancer to be picked up too late.

Worryingly, even surgeries that involved a lot of chest X-rays did not reduce the number of early deaths from lung cancer, the study said. This conflicted with most expectations that people who had lung cancer caught in time were not visiting the doctor-yet the study seems to show this is clearly not the case.

The study said out of the 20,142 people:

1,071 had been diagnosed at death

2,036 had died within 30 days of diagnosis

2,976 had died between 31 and 90 days after diagnosis

The study highlighted other worrying patterns in people dying an early death due to late diagnosis.

Researchers are now calling for computer software to help doctors with diagnosis, allowing doctors to type in symptoms of lung cancer to rapidly identify the fatal disease, which is the most difficult to diagnose as symptoms can look like other conditions, such as chest infections.

John Field, at the University of Liverpool, said the study was "one of the most in-depth primary care studies undertaken to date" on lung cancer.

He said: "The paper supports the argument that we do need to do a great deal more for potential lung cancer patients than what is provided at present."

Dr Penny Woods, the chief executive of the British Lung Foundation, said: "The finding that one in three UK lung cancer patients dies within three months of diagnosis is sadly a very telling consequence of late presentation and delayed diagnosis.

"These are major reasons why lung cancer continues to be the biggest cancer killer in the UK, and why survival rates in this country lag behind those throughout Europe and the US.

"Evidence suggests that well-funded awareness campaigns are proving very successful in increasing earlier diagnosis. A continuation and expansion of such campaigns will be crucial if we are to significantly improve lung cancer survival."

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