As with all cancers, the sooner lung cancer is diagnosed and treated, the better the prognosis. Lung cancer is one of the most common types of cancer. People over the age of 50 are at an increased risk of lung cancer. According to the American Cancer Society, tobacco use causes more than 80 percent of all lung cancers because cigarettes, cigars and other tobacco products contain many dangerous carcinogens. Other causes include inhalation of asbestos and radon, among other chemicals and pollutants including arsenic, chromium, silica and beryllium. People with a history of tuberculosis and other lung diseases, including emphysema and asthma, have an increased risk of developing lung cancer.
Lung cancer is sometimes misdiagnosed as something less harmful, making lung cancer the 4th most claimed malpractice injury. For example a patient with a chronic cough may be diagnosed with bronchitis, without running the proper diagnostic test.
Some symptoms and signs of lung cancer:
- Persistent bouts of coughing.
- Persistant back pain, shoulder pain, or chest pain that worsens with deeper breathing.
- Shortness of breath.
- Hoarse voice.
- Coughing up blood or bloody mucus.
- Neck or facial swelling.
- Swallowing with difficulty.
- Weight loss or appetite loss.
- Feeling fatigue or weak.
- Periodic respiratory infections.
To diagnose lung cancer, a doctor should look for enlargement of the lymph nodes, liver and abdomen, and for other symptoms of a lung mass. A complete diagnosis requires a chest x-ray to look for growths, and a sputum test, involving coughing up phlegm, for lung cancer cell detection, and a spirometry, which tests a patient’s pulmonary function to determine if there is an obstruction or narrowing of the airways. A diagnosis of lung cancer may include a biopsy, of which there are two kinds, bronchoscopy and percutaneous needle biopsy, for tissue examination. Bronchoscopy involves insertion of a bronchoscope, a flexible lighted tube, into the patient’s mouth or nose and guiding it to the bronchi. A percutaneous needle biopsy involves inserting a needle into the lung through the skin. After a lung cancer diagnosis is made, a doctor will determine the stage of the cancer in order to establish the proper course of treatment.
There are four types of lung cancer:
- Small lung cancer, accounts for about 20 to 25 percent of all lung cancer cases. It is found predominantly in people who are heavy smokers and most often develops in the bronchial submucosa. This form of lung cancer spreads rapidly and is more likely to metastasize than the other three forms of lung cancer.
- Squamous cell carcinoma, also called epidermoid cancer, makes up 25 to 30 percent of all lung cancer cases and is the most common form of lung cancer. It often begins in the bronchi and may remain in the lungs without spreading for a longer period of time than the other forms of lung cancer.
- Adenocarcinoma is a form of lung cancer with cancerous cells shaped as cubes or columns, which usually grow in patterns in the glands, along the tissue that lines the bronchi and along the outer edges of the lungs. It makes up 25 to 30 percent of all lung cancer cases.
- Large cell carcinoma is the rarest form of lung cancer, making up approximately 10 to 20 percent of cases. It is found most often in the bronchi and is made up of cancer cells that are not small lung cancer, squamous, or adenocarcinoma.
If a doctor or other health care provider should have suspected lung cancer, but did not follow-up appropriately, the consequences can be severe. Delays in diagnosis can result in delays in treatment and further spread of the disease or even wrongful death. If you or one of your loved ones presented with early symptoms of lung cancer, but the physician missed the diagnosis or caused other delays, please contact malpractice attorney Ryan Springer for a free legal consultation about your legal rights and a confidential case evaluation.