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Paul McNeil, Head of Personal Injury and Medical Negligence
Patients with lung cancer generally present with coughing up blood. Those with metastatic disease may also present with weight loss, bone pain or jaundice. GPs should refer patients to a chest physician who will look for abnormalities and clubbing. Investigations should include full blood count, liver function tests, chest x-ray and sputum cytology. If the chest x-ray is abnormal, fibreoptic bronchosopy should be performed. Staging investigations should include a radioisotope bone scan, liver ultrasound and a CT scan.
Delays in Diagnosis
Treatment depends on whether a patient has small or non-small cell lung cancer. Limited stage non-small cell lung cancer may be operable; otherwise it is treated with radiotherapy. Small cell lung cancer is treated with chemotherapy.
To succeed in a medical negligence claim you need to prove that the delay affected the outcome. Usually this means you need to prove that during the delay the cancer progressed to a more advanced stage. Therefore, delays of a few months are unlikely to be enough. However if cancer is left, it is likely to grow and can spread to other parts of the body. Mistakes in diagnosing lung cancer can be very serious. Medical negligence claims may be brought for:
- Failure to carry out adequate examination or take an accurate history
- Failure to refer a patient to a chest physician for further investigations
- Mistakes in interpreting investigations
- Mistakes in classification of lung cancer as either small cell or non-small cell lung cancer
- Mistakes in staging
- Mistaken diagnosis of lung cancer
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