The emotional impact of false positive diagnosis
False positives in cancer diagnosis cost NHS millions each year and create huge anxiety across the nation, according to healthtech company, ANCON Medical.
Lung cancer killed 1.71 million people worldwide in 2016 as the most deadly form of cancer and the third most common overall. Survival is mostly determined by the stage at which it is caught, with later-stage diagnosis having poorer survival rates.
When found at its earliest stage, more than a third of people with lung cancer will survive the disease for five years or more, compared with around 5 in 100 of people when discovered at a later stage.
This is why effective diagnosis is so important in surviving the disease given the rates of survival have not shown much improvement in the last 40 years.
False positives create a huge amount of anxiety in patients that may have symptoms that indicate lung cancer without the disease being present.
Not only are they hugely disruptive to the lives of individuals in a state of diagnosis limbo, or who now believe they have the disease, it also wastes a significant amount of time and money for an already stretched NHS.
Wesley Baker, CEO of ANCON Medical, commented on the problem: “From an individual point of view false positives are hugely disruptive to the lives of patients and their families and while the NHS is incredibly thorough with their diagnosis, it is easy to convince yourself that the lengthy diagnosis is not a good sign, leading to massive levels of anxiety and stress.
“This is before we discuss the impact that inaccurate diagnosis has on the NHS’s budget and time restraints with mis-diagnosis affecting treatment options and ultimately survival rates of the UK’s most deadly form of cancer.”
CT sans have a 36% false positive rate for lung cancer, biopsies have a 27% false positive rate and X-rays are often inadequate for early detection, making more accurate diagnoses an urgent priority.