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The Trials of the Misdiagnosed

November was lung cancer awareness month. The month came and went with little fanfare, as it usually does. I had a few conversations on various platforms. One sentiment seemed to ring true in all conversations: the trials and frustrations of lung cancer misdiagnosis.

How can a cough lead to lung cancer misdiagnosis?

That cough. The one that usually follows shows itself with the possibility of an issue. We know that’s not always the case, but usually, a persistent cough = a call out. My conversations with two lung cancer advocates were interesting as both people stated similar “call-outs,” like a lingering cough.

There can be problems with symptoms for a multitude of reasons. However, in the case of lung cancer, a highly stigmatized cancer, many even doctors assume that you smoked, which is what led to the problem. Or, lung cancer is misdiagnosed because it's labeled with the detection of popular bronchitis.

In the case of the two people I spoke with, they indicated the exact same initial diagnoses. It's fair to say in no way, form, or fashion does anyone want to think they have lung cancer. But assuming it’s something else because of a simple test result, and to make sure it is not lung cancer is deemed not necessary? Well, that's just plain careless.

Misdiagnosis frustration

I recall my mom battling her cough for weeks. What stood out to me was how long she was in the hospital until her doctors finally made some kind of conclusion. Being in the hospital for weeks, the whole inconclusive diagnosis never made sense - and bronchitis was on the top of the radar.

I’m not clear on what tools the hospital had at that time (it was 2010) but it's upsetting that her bronchitis was actually late stage lung cancer. It was possibly small cell carcinoma. Frustrating? Heck yeah.

Many years later, all I have to go on is that the best tools to draw the proper conclusion weren't available (which took weeks to do).

What's next?

Getting things right the first time can be a trial. Really understanding your body and taking note of how you feel is the basis of digging a bit further. During my discussion with the two rock star lung cancer survivors, they mentioned the importance of testing using CT scans, even for those that are or aren't smokers.

Advocating for yourself

The consensus from the two individuals was a definite call out to push back on doctors that don't feel early testing makes sense.

We know that early diagnosis is a top key in fighting and possibly beating lung cancer. The decision on checking for x, y, and z with doctors who “don’t believe it could be” is over. There’s no harm in making sure, because making sure helps stir away from an exhausting and detrimental misdiagnosis.

Trust your gut and question the obvious.

 The time to fight is now, with integrity, grace, hope, and a smile….when you feel like it

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