This site is intended for healthcare professionals only

General practice fails to diagnose lung cancer

Written by: | Published:

Primary care nurses and GPs are missing opportunities to diagnose lung cancer, a study published in Thorax suggested.

The study of 20,142 people aged over 30 diagnosed with lung cancer compared those who died early (within 90 days of diagnosis) and those who survived longer. It showed that patients who had died early had visited their general practice a median of five times, compared with four times for patients who survived beyond three months. This shows there is not a lack of engagement with services from patients. Rather, the authors suggested, it means that GPs and practice nurses are repeatedly failing to identify the disease.

The study also showed that the number of early deaths from lung cancer was highest in general practices that carried out the least chest x-rays.

Practice nurses could improve diagnosis by spotting early indicators of the disease, said Dr Jesme Fox, medical director at the Roy Castle Lung Cancer Foundation. 'What is obvious from this study is that lung cancer is being missed in primary care. Practice nurses should have an index of suspicion about lung cancer. For example, if a patient presents with a cough, it could be a variety of things. However, if the patient returns with a noticeably worse cough, the nurse should consider referring the patient for a chest x-ray or specialist advice.' Dr Fox also said that nurses could consult the NICE cancer referral guidelines for clarity around lung cancer referrals.

What do you think? Leave a comment below or tweet your views to @IndyNurseMag

This material is protected by MA Healthcare Ltd copyright.
See Terms and Conditions.



Please view our Terms and Conditions before leaving a comment.

Change the CAPTCHA codeSpeak the CAPTCHA code

Read a free issue from Practice Nursing

Register to read a free issue from our sister publication, Practice Nursing.

Including articles on asthma, diabetes and more. Read your copy.


Sign up to the newsletter


Independent Nurse is the professional resource for primary care and community nurses, providing clinical articles for practice nurses and prescribers.


Subscribe to our newsletter and stay up to date with the latest nursing news.

Stay Connected

Stay social with Independent Nurse by following us on Twitter, liking us on Facebook or connecting on LinkedIn.


Need access to some of our older articles? You can view our archive, or alternatively contact us.

Contact Us

MA Healthcare Ltd.
St Jude's Church, Dulwich Road
London, SE24 0PB

Tel: +44 (0)20 7738 5454
Registered in England and Wales No. 01878373

Meet the team


Find out how to contribute to Independent Nurse here.