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Can misdiagnosis contribute to lung cancer

Posts: 7
Joined: Jul 2012

My wife just recently passed away from NSCLC. Prior to the discovery of the lung tumor, she had a history of asthma and bronchitis. So 2 years ago, the annual pollen season hit pretty hard, including me with no history of seasonal allergies. My wife began coughing significantly so the doctor began treating for asthma and bronchitis issues. Her condition and coughing was so persistant and she would go back for more checkups. Same diagnosis. But when she did not stop coughing for a month, I took her to the ER and there they discoverd a lung tumor and a blood clot on her heart. They could not treat the tumor until they got he heart condition under control, in effect losing valuable time.

Has anyone out there experienced this same problem wih misdiagnosis? It is quite clear to me that the doctor was only treating the problem based upon the history of the patient. He failed to undertake a few extra steps or tests that could have led to earlier detection of his patient's newly developed cancer situation. By allowing his patient to continue nonstop coughing for a month, it led to an effect on the heart.

Anybody out there with any info to share shall be greatly appreciated. Thank you. JLN

Ex_Rock_n_Roller's picture
Posts: 281
Joined: Mar 2011

I'd hate to say misdiagnosis (or missed diagnosis, at least) is the rule rather than the exception, but while that might be a little harsh, your wife's case is mine in a nutshell, including the treatment with every asthma med my (now ex) PCP had in his closet. I had to beg to be sent to an allergist, who agreed with me that multiple allergy meds producing zero effect was probably a pretty good sign that allergies weren't the problem. He sent me in for a CT, and the rest is history (although I am not, so far).

My guy obviously had formed a mental picture of me based on the past, and apparently looked for a reason to fob every individual symptom off on some innocuous cause rather than laying them out on the table and saying, "What could all of this mean together?"

In addition to wheezing that got very graphic just before I was diagnosed, I had repeat incidents of persistent chest congestion (every cold went right to my chest) against a history of nothing resembling that, coughing up a small amount of blood a few times ("Maybe you have bronchitis"), anemia which went unremarked by him although he had the numbers in hand, unexplained and sudden onset swelling of ankles and legs, very likely caused by the main tumor impinging on heart blood vessels ("That swelling doesn't look bad to me; you're not having heart problems or kidney failure"), and persistent heart rhythm disturbances that didn't show up on the Holter monitor.

The most charitable way I can characterize it is a willing suspension of the scientific method. Anybody can make a mistake, but it really seemed pretty darn amateurish. I don't know whether I would be any better off had he cottoned onto the answer sooner (or at all), but I do know that I wasn't interested in maintaining an association with somebody who could whiff it that badly.

Luckily, my wife's excellent PCP took me on without hesitation.

Very sorry to hear about your wife.

Posts: 818
Joined: Mar 2011

Lung cancer rarely is discovered until it is stage four. Sadly, one symptoms docs are told to observe before considering cancer, is a cough that lasts three weeks. If she was a nonsmoker, the dr was probably as surprised as you. My mom told th PA in her docs office that she had tumors on her brain (mom was a nurse). She tried to see the doc and they kept pawning her off on the PA. The day before her dx, the PA gave her a nasal spray for sinus infection. The urgent care physician who dx'd her said her sinuses were clear. A little like putting a bandaid on a gunshot wound, you know?

What we really need is a more efficient and cost effective was to dx the lung cancer.

I am so sorry for your wife's illness and death. There is probably no way to know if a month would have made a difference in the outcome. It usually takes 4-8 weeks between initial diagnosis and beginning of chemo or radiation. Mine was about six weeks.

I hope you find peace soon. It does you no good to torment yourself with shoulda, coulda, woulda. She was lucky to have been loved by you.

ToBeGolden's picture
Posts: 695
Joined: Aug 2010

What is needed is data. How often does a cough lasting 3 weeks turn out to be cancer? How often is it a sinus infection?

These are questions that can be answered (in theory) by computer science (mathematicians or statisticians) professionals. They don't require placebo controlled studies. They just require data mining.

Amazon analyzes of a TRILLION tweets every day to discover consumer trends. Surely, diagnostic/treatment outcomes can be analyzed to uncover patterns. I have laryngeal cancer and my vocal cords were removed. (Now it may have metastized to the lungs.) But my first treatment was 9 months of voice therapy. Well I wonder: How many times is it cancer when a month of voice therapy does not resolve the voice problems? This is a question that can be answered.

These questions cannot be answered immediately. Health records have to be reformatted so they can be searched by the computer professionals. Probably information that can identify individual patients needs to be removed. But if the data bases are set up correctly, thousands of questions can be asked and answered in a matter of days. Rick.

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