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Lung cancer screening complicated by high rate of false positives

Lung masses and nodules are commonplace. The American Thoracic Society reports that as many as half of adults who get chest X-rays will have masses. Most of them arise from previous infections that left scar tissue. Even so, they often cause medical patients in Ohio considerable worry due to fears about lung cancer. With so many scans revealing lung nodules or masses, physicians have to make decisions about how to continue monitoring patients. They have to balance the need to detect cancer early against exposing patients who probably do not have cancer to invasive diagnostic procedures.

Performing a biopsy on a small lung nodule introduces the risk of collapsing the patient’s lung or causing an infection. These are serious consequences in the face of a false positive rate of almost 25% for lung cancer screening.

Physicians may choose to wait and see how a lung mass develops before proceeding with a biopsy. Lung cancers tend to grow very slowly. If a subsequent scan detects mass growth, then a physician may decide to proceed with a biopsy. When monitoring patients for lung cancer, the results of the National Lung Screening Trial suggested that CT scans produced more accurate results than standard chest X-rays. Trial subjects who had low-dose CT scans were 15 to 20% less likely to die from lung cancer compared to people monitored with X-rays.

Although physicians face challenges when diagnosing lung cancer, they have a duty to follow accepted standards of medical care. A person who grew sicker due to a physician’s failure to diagnose may have legal questions. An attorney might supply information about how to prove medical negligence. A medical malpractice attorney may also have the ability to consult independent physicians, who might provide expert opinions that support a patient’s claim for damages.

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