Lung cancer often misdiagnosed as pneumonia urges requests for second medical opinions

Michael Bartlett

By Michael Bartlett

Posted on March 28th, 2019

Often, people with recurrent bouts of pneumonia tend to have unidentified lung cancer that can progress to advanced stages without appropriate treatment. Persistent chest infections can be signs of something more serious than pneumonia, and unfortunately, it may sometimes take a few months for the doctors to diagnose properly.

Lung cancer is attributed to various external factors including exposure to asbestos, radon gas, and cigarette smoking. However, asbestos-related lung cancer is specifically caused by the asbestos fibers embedded in the lungs and scarring the lungs for 10-20 years after the exposure occurred. Oftentimes, asbestos-caused lung cancer is misdiagnosed because its symptoms are similar to conditions such as pneumonia, asthma, bronchitis, and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease.

Anyone who worked in an industrial setting should get tested regardless of how minor their lung-related symptoms might be. Early diagnosis ensures effective treatments and a better prognosis.

Why is lung cancer misdiagnosed?

There are high chances of a misdiagnosis especially during the early stages as both lung cancer and pneumonia affect the lungs and have several overlapping symptoms:

  • Cough
  • Presence of phlegm
  • Shortness of breath
  • Wheezing
  • Stabbing chest pain
  • Tiredness
  • Loss of appetite

Persistent chest infections are signs of something more serious than pneumonia, sadly this takes a few months for the doctors to diagnose properly.

Early-stage lung cancer shows symptoms that are not very specific and just indicate the inability of the lungs to perform normally. It takes several years for the characteristic symptoms of lung cancer such as coughing up blood, fatigue, and unexplained weight loss to develop. Moreover, X-rays of the chest cannot be relied upon to detect early-stage lung cancer. These are the most common reasons for the initial stage of lung cancer to be mistaken for pneumonia.

According to a report published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, lung cancer is one among the top three most commonly misdiagnosed cancers. Recent guidelines by the American Society of Clinical Oncologists suggest that people at high risk of developing lung cancer need to undergo annual screening with the use of low-dose computed tomography (LDCT). People with a history of asbestos exposure need to undergo screening tests to facilitate early detection of lung cancer and timely treatment.

Second opinions after recurrent pneumonia

If you have experienced recurrent episodes of pneumonia and had been previously exposed to asbestos fibers while working in an industrial setting, we recommend you seek a second opinion from a doctor specializing in the diagnosis and treatment of asbestos-related diseases to avoid misdiagnosis. Misdiagnosis leads to incorrect treatment, delayed treatment, and unfavorable prognosis, which is why any individual who has been exposed to asbestos in the past and has developed new lung-related problems should get their diagnosis confirmed by a specialist doctor.

This is referred to as a second medical opinion and is essential to identify your condition properly and receive appropriate treatment at the right time. Generally, patients in the early stage of cancer receive more aggressive treatment, which has a greater chance of extending life expectancy. Therefore, we recommend people with a history of exposure to asbestos remain attentive to warning signs of asbestos-related diseases and take immediate action if the signs tend to persist even after a few weeks.

Claim eligibility for asbestos-related lung cancer

Because lung cancer is often misdiagnosed as pneumonia, there is a strong possibility it only gets discovered in advanced stages, which leaves the patient with less effective treatment options. It's extremely important to seek medical help and get the right diagnosis in time, as it may entitle you to claim compensation.

We can help you with reviewing your case to establish if you are eligible to file a claim. With over 30 years of professional experience, our attorneys and legal team will efficiently handle your case so that you can keep focusing on your treatment.