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Delayed Diagnosis of Lung Cancer

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    Recent research highlights the importance of prompt diagnosis of lung cancer and the need for increased awareness of symptoms on the part of GPs.

    By Rosie Hodgetts

Lung cancer continues to be one of the most common types of cancer in the UK. Although many of us are becoming more aware of the symptoms to look out for, it continues to have one of the lowest survival outcomes.

I was shocked to read in a recent report published by Thorax that almost one third of people diagnosed with lung cancer between 2000 and 2013, died within 90 days of their diagnosis.

Statistics

The study found that of 20,142 adults diagnosed with lung cancer in the UK between 2000 and 2013 only 70% survived for longer than 90 days whilst 10% died within 30 days of diagnosis, 15% died between 30 and 90 days after their diagnosis and a further 5% were not diagnosed at all until after their death.

The mortality rate in the UK for those with lung cancer is significantly higher than in other countries, for example, in Sweden 46% of people with the disease between 2004 and 2007 survived a year compared with only 30% in Britain.

The role of the GP

It could be presumed that this means many of us are not consulting our GP when we suffer with symptoms but this does not appear to be the case.

Of the group who died within 90 days of diagnosis, visits to their GP were increased to an average of 5 times in the four months before diagnosis compared with 4 times in the four months for those who survived longer.

Whilst it may be that patients are not accurately reporting symptoms to their GP it would appear that GPs are often missing the tell-tale signs of lung cancer and may not be referring patients for appropriate follow up investigations, including chest x-rays, and specialist advice.

It has been suggested that GPs should be provided with better diagnostic and screening tools including more advanced software to help them detect the symptoms of lung cancer earlier when a patient presents whilst we wholeheartedly support this move to try and improve outcomes for patients suffering with this disease.

Our experience

As clinical negligence solicitors, I and my colleagues all too often see claimants who have suffered due to delayed diagnosis of lung cancer and the results for them and their family can be devastating, which correlates with this recent research.

The negligence may involve a failure by the patient’s GP to recognise symptoms and make a referral to hospital for further investigation or can involve a failure to properly interpret investigations once carried out. Where the delay has resulted in the patient requiring more extensive treatment and/or a worse prognosis, then the patient can make a negligence claim for compensation.

If you or a member of your family has been affected by a delayed diagnosis and would like to discuss this further then please contact a member of the clinical negligence team.

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