In CureTalk interview with Linnea Duff, a nonsmoker who was diagnosed with lung cancer…mentions that since she was a nonsmoker she was initially misdiagnosed of adult onset of asthma.
The delay might have cost her precious days. Eventually she was diagnosed with terminal lung cancer. The question remains, had she been given an early diagnosis, would she have had better chances?
I decided to investigate and dig a bit deeper into published literature and find out about delayed diagnosis of lung cancer among non-smokers. To tell the truth, I came up with very little success, even though there was ample literature regarding delayed diagnosis of lung cancer, there was little information about diagnosis of lung cancer in non-smokers. A recently published review, Lung cancer in never-smokers, too disappointed without touching on the topic I was searching for, that of delay in diagnosis.
Lung cancer ranks high as a cancer characterized by delayed diagnosis. Non smokers/never smokers, who develop lung cancer may experience delays in diagnosis mainly due to the fact that most early symptoms of lung cancer mimic that of inconsequential respiratory infections. In addition, lung cancer is more or less synonymous with cigarette smoking and a physician may misdiagnose symptoms for onset of asthma or other respiratory illnesses.
Even though I did not come up with papers that directly dealt with or evaluated the delay experienced by non-smokers in lung cancer diagnosis, I came across papers where misdiagnosis of lung cancer was studied. I shall leave you with three studies that caught my attention,
- One study evaluated occurrence of lung cancer being misdiagnosed as sputum negative tuberculosis. The study was conducted in TB endemic countries and results showed that a significant number of patients were wrongly diagnosed, leading to delay in administering timely chemo-radiotherapy. (http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19640168).
- In another study, 101 patients with NSCLC were evaluated for delay in diagnosis and treatment of lung cancer. The results indicate that delays from doctor’s as well as patient’s side was responsible for delay and rate of delay by doctor was higher than patient’s delay. (http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22322833)
- An EHR based study, aimed at understanding delays in lung cancer diagnosis, and discover missed opportunities for early lung cancer diagnosis. The study involved non-smokers too though there was no separate data given. Study concludes that delays occur mostly due to failure to recognize abnormal imaging results and complete diagnostic procedures. (http://jco.ascopubs.org/content/28/20/3307.full).
Lung cancer in never smokers is the seventh leading cause of death among solid tumors. About 15% of lung cancer patients have never smoked.
Do write in if you are a non-smoker and have experienced delay on lung cancer diagnosis. I would love to hear from you.
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