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Doctors 'Need To Improve' Lung Cancer Diagnosis

Improvements Are Needed To The Diagnosis Of Lung Cancer


Doctors in the UK may need to make significant improvements to the treatment of patients with lung cancer, as new research shows they are often missing chances to diagnose the disease early, therefore putting people's lives at risk.

A study published in the British Medical Journal found that in one in 20 cases, individuals were only diagnosed with lung cancer after they had died from the condition.

Researchers from the University of Nottingham looked at 20,142 cases of the disease in people aged 30 and over, finding that one in ten passed away within just one month of finding out they had lung cancer.

Overall, 2,038 individuals died within 30 days of diagnosis, 2,976 succumbed to the condition 31 to 90 days after discovering they were suffering from it and 1,071 people were only found to have lung cancer after death.

Scientists were investigating lung cancer diagnosis in the UK, as previous research has shown that fewer people in Britain survive the disease than in other countries.

For instance, figures show that between 2004 and 2007, 46 per cent of people who were told they had lung cancer in Sweden lived for at least another year, compared to just 30 per cent of Britons.

It was found that in the UK, a person's chance of an early death increased if they visited their GP more times than other patients, suggesting that doctors could perhaps be doing more to lower lung cancer mortality rates. This surprised the study authors, who initially thought the high number of deaths was due to people not visiting their doctor.

Chief executive of the British Lung Foundation Dr Penny Woods commented: "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."

Expert Opinion
Early diagnosis and treatment of cancer plays a critical role in the chances of patients surviving and recovering from the disease, which makes the findings of this study extremely troubling, as many people are not receiving the diagnosis they require to ensure treatment for lung cancer is started.

“In our work we have seen first-hand the consequences of misdiagnosis or delays in the diagnosis of diseases, such as lung cancer, and it is crucial everything possible is done to improve the process and to ensure patients showing symptoms of lung cancer are diagnosed quickly and able to access the treatment that could help them survive the disease.”
Julie Lewis, Partner

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