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'Missed Opportunities' To Spot Lung Cancer – Why?

Author: Neil Fearn  Bullet  Dated: 15/10/2014

A study of 20,142 lung cancer patients over 30 has shown that 1 in 10 died within a month of diagnosis, rising to 1 in 3 after 90 days. The research concluded that GP's need better diagnostic tools for spotting lung cancer, such as computer software.

Lagging Behind

The research was carried out after the scientists involved wanted to understand why fewer lung cancer patients survive in the UK compared to other countries.

According to Cancer Research, one form of lung cancer known as 'non small cell' had a 46% survival rate after 1 year in Sweden, but only 30% here in the UK. Moreover, Sweden had fewer people diagnosed in the later stages of lung cancer and far more diagnosed in the early stages.

Simply put, these statistics suggest that people aren't being diagnosed quickly enough, and it is costing lives.

Dr Penny Woods, the chief executive of the British Lung Foundation, said to the BBC: "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."

Why Are Early Diagnosis Rates So Low?

There are several possible explanations for why early diagnosis rates are so low in the UK, though ultimately more research needs to be done. One explanation offered is to do with a 'lack of public engagement'. To you and I, this would mean that we're not going to see our GP if we may have a cough, or breathing difficulties.

However, thanks to awareness campaigns, many more people now know that they should go to their doctor if they've had a cough that's lasted longer than 3 weeks, and other 'better safe than sorry' measures.

The researchers also suggested some other possibilities, such as the need for computer software that allows doctors to research a patient's symptoms. Chest and lung problems can be difficult to diagnose, due to the fact that the symptoms can be similar in many conditions. This is why software that helps doctors narrow down the possible conditions based upon the symptoms could help with lung cancer screening.

In addition to improving cancer screening, more needs to be done to tackle delayed diagnoses or being incorrectly diagnosed with another condition. If the UK is struggling to diagnose people with lung cancer when it is in its early stages, there's the potential that many are dying an avoidable death.

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