Receiving a cancer diagnosis can be devastating for patients and their families, especially if it comes as a surprise or if they were initially wrongly diagnosed. Hundreds of thousands of individuals are diagnosed with lung cancer each year, leading them down a difficult treatment path. What many may not know, is that around 3,000 cases are misdiagnosed each year.
Understanding a Lung Cancer Diagnosis
When first diagnosed with lung cancer, patients should take a moment to breathe, relax and accept their diagnosis, knowing that it’s okay to express their emotions and have many questions. Approaching the situation with a clear mind is crucial to making confident decisions.
Patients and their families should address any questions and concerns with a specialist right away to advocate for themselves and ensure their symptoms and concerns are being addressed properly. Patients should walk away from their initial appointments knowing any details that could affect their prognosis, such as lung cancer type and staging, as these details will be the driving factors in establishing a cancer treatment plan. For example, the life expectancy for small cell lung cancer (SCLC) is often worse than that of non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC) as it’s much more aggressive – meaning treatment will likely also need to be very aggressive.
Lung Cancer Misdiagnosis
Lung cancer symptoms often mimic other serious illnesses, such as bronchitis or pneumonia. Doctors who fail to recognize the signs of cancer can miss or delay a proper diagnosis. Unfortunately, the lung cancer misdiagnosis rate is over 21%.
Because lung cancer is an extremely aggressive disease, early detection is critical to ensuring the best chance at survival. Misdiagnosis could delay treatments, causing the lung cancer to be caught at a later stage, when surgery and chemotherapy may not be viable options. Survival rates are significantly better when lung cancer is diagnosed at an early stage, meaning the difference between survival and death for many.
Because there are clear screening guidelines based on age, lifestyle, and family history, lung cancer misdiagnosis is often the result of negligence or another form of medical malpractice. Doctors who fail to properly diagnose lung cancer could be held liable, and patients and their families may be able to recover funds to help pay for treatments and other costs associated with the misdiagnosis. A medical malpractice lawyer can help you understand your legal rights in such a situation.
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Second Opinions for Lung Cancer
Due to the high number of misdiagnosed cases of lung cancer, many patients with lung cancer symptoms seek out a second opinion. A second opinion for another specialist can provide additional insight into patient concerns, and allows patients to potentially prevent a misdiagnosis and find a better fit for their cancer treatment. Patients should be sure to keep all medical records and documents that they receive, from all doctors, to ensure everyone has thorough information on their case and to present evidence of a misdiagnosis, if needed.
Establishing a Healthcare Team
Once properly diagnosed, patients should establish a well-rounded healthcare team that will provide support and expertise from all angles, including the diagnostic process, treatment and recovery. Members of a health care team can include:
- Cancer care center
- Doctor/cancer specialist
- Thoracic surgeon
- Social workers
- Physical therapists
- Occupational therapists
- Rehabilitation specialists
- Spiritual support providers
- Palliative care providers
Financial Planning for Lung Cancer Treatment
Cancer treatments can get expensive, especially when medications, therapies and other patient needs aren’t covered by insurance. Financial planning is important for helping patients make decisions regarding their treatment, to understand potential resources that may help with growing medical bills and to ease the stress associated with treatment costs.
Cancer centers provide patients with support, syncing individuals and their families with professionals that will explain costs and potential financial resources. Patients should also consult with their health insurance company to explain their situation and understand any potential out-of-pocket expenses. For the many patients that experienced a misdiagnosis before discovering they had lung cancer, a lung cancer lawsuit may provide them with much-needed compensation.
Lung Cancer Support System
Cancer patients should be aware of the support resources available to them, surrounding themselves with others to rely on throughout their treatment.
Establishing Your Support System
- Family members, friends and loved ones
- Online support groups and forums
- Cancer center support groups
- Counseling services
- Lung cancer survivors
- Focused lung cancer support groups
- Lung cancer social media blogs
- Inspire (survivors support community)
- Cancer Survivors Network
With the right tools, resources and understanding, patients can better address their lung cancer diagnosis, advocate for themselves and confidently pursue the treatment and support needed to overcome their diagnosis.
Common Questions of Lung Cancer Patients
Questions are natural not just after initial diagnosis, but throughout the entire treatment process. Below are common questions that lung cancer patients and their families encounter, along with potential answers.
If a biopsy confirmed my lung cancer diagnosis, should I still seek a second opinion?
Even if the diagnosis is accurate, a second opinion can provide a patient with peace of mind and more information regarding their treatment options.
How accurate is the lung cancer prognosis that I received?
Prognosis takes a plethora of information into account, all of which your doctor should be able to explain. Prognosis can, however, be affected by a variety of factors that can emerge throughout the treatment process, and may change.
Are clinical trials available for lung cancer and are they worth trying?
Ultimately, a conversation with your medical care team regarding clinical trial eligibility and viability is necessary.
How do I know if my misdiagnosis was a result of medical malpractice?
Law firms offer a free consultation to discuss your case. If you suspect medical malpractice, reach out to an experienced lawyer to determine if your case may qualify.
How do I prevent a misdiagnosis?
Patients should advocate for themselves, ask many questions and ensure their symptoms are being addressed, especially if risk factors are present for lung cancer. Second opinions are a good idea, as well.
If my lung cancer is inoperable, will I likely face a short life expectancy?
If surgery isn’t an option for your cancer, there are other options available. Chemotherapy and radiation could be viable options to shrink the tumor.
How accurate are statistics regarding lung cancer?
Organizations such as the American Cancer Society collect information from a huge number of individuals to compile data as accurate as possible. However, every case of cancer is different, and patients should discuss their personal prognosis with their medical care team to find information specific to their situation.