We have previously written on this blog about failure to properly diagnose cancer, and the duty of physicians recommend appropriate screening tests and track a patient’s conditions, noticing potential warning signs of cancer and referring to specialists when necessary.
Part of what is required for doing this effectively is to keep up with current practice guidelines regarding cancer screening, and recognizing the importance of cancer screening in the first place. Surprisingly, many physicians are simply unaware of the effectiveness of cancer screening and aren’t familiar with screening guidelines.
A recent study published in the online journal CANCER highlighted physician ignorance with regard to lung cancer screening. According to the study, less than half of family physicians who took a survey agreed that lung cancer screening reduces deaths related to lung cancer, despite the fact that clinical trials show that screening using low-dose computer tomography (LDCT) can detect lung cancers early on and reduce deaths related to lung cancer. The survey also highlighted family physicians’ lack of knowledge of current screening guidelines related to the LDCT screening test.
The study concluded that “education is needed to bridge these knowledge gaps and lay a foundation on which physicians can base their treatment recommendations.” Cancer screening guidelines are only good for patients if physicians are informed of them and appropriately following them. Because of their importance in addressing serious cancers, screening guidelines can come up in medical malpractice litigation as a way to hold a negligent physician account. We’ll say more about this issue in a future post.