We are all aware of the immense pressures on the NHS during the pandemic and particularly, at the beginning of ‘lockdown’ when GP surgeries, hospitals and other healthcare providers had to tackle an incredibly difficult situation that they have never had to face before.
As a result of pressures on the NHS, operations and outpatient appointments were cancelled and GP surgeries moved to a telephone triage service, rather than seeing patients face to face. Unfortunately, there are a number of instances where cancer has gone undetected for some time or has been mis-diagnosed. This is particularly prevalent in cases of lung cancer being misdiagnosed as COVID-19 as the early symptoms can be similar. The NHS list some symptoms of lung cancer to be:
A cough that doesn’t go away after 2 to 3 weeks,
A long-standing cough that gets worse,
An ache or pain when breathing or coughing,
Such symptoms have been confused with COVID-19 and as a direct result, patients have not been referred under the 2-week rule in a timely fashion. In cases involving lung cancer, even a short delay can make a huge and devastating difference to a patient’s prognosis. In fact, cancer charities have this year urged GPs to save lives by getting better at identifying potential lung cancer symptoms, particularly in non-smokers. Lung cancer in non-smokers is increasing and can be difficult to diagnose; couple this with lockdown and symptoms of COVID-19 being similar to lung cancer, there is likely to be a number of patients with late diagnoses that may have already or are yet to occur.