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Pneumonia and lung cancer

Dec 1, 2017 | Failure to Diagnose

As cold and flu season comes to New York, people might also want to be on the lookout for symptoms of pneumonia. Pneumonia is a tricky disease that can be cured in a matter of weeks or, in some cases, can be fatal. For people who have lung cancer, pneumonia is a greater risk, and sometimes its symptoms can be missed because they can be mistaken for those associated with lung cancer. Symptoms that lung cancer and pneumonia share include persistent cough, shortness of breath, low energy and loss of appetite. Pneumonia can be caused by bacteria, fungi or a virus.

Doctors can diagnose pneumonia by physical exam, X-rays or blood tests. For patients with lung cancer, a diagnosis of pneumonia might be more difficult. Many abnormalities in the lungs or breathing or that show up on X-rays could be assumed to be due to the cancer. There are additional tests that can help doctors determine if their lung cancer patients have pneumonia.

Treatment for pneumonia is the same for people with lung cancer as it is for other patients. The cause of pneumonia must be treated in order for the treatment to be effective. If the pneumonia is bacterial in origin it can be treated with antibiotics, but if it is viral, supportive care is usually administered while the virus runs its course. This can include IV fluids, oxygen and rest.

A failure to diagnose pneumnoia could lead to fatality. For someone who has lung cancer, the risks of both pneumonia and failure to diagnose it are greater. Most doctors are aware of this fact and are on the lookout for pneumonia in their lung cancer patients. Running special tests to determine if symptoms in a lung cancer patient are caused by pneumonia could be considered the standard of care. Doctors who deviate from the standard of care can be liable when their patients are harmed.