Diagnostic and Interventional Radiology
Chest Imaging - Review

Missed lung cancer: when, where, and why?


Institute of Radiology, Department of Radiological Sciences, Università Cattolica del Sacro Cuore, Largo Agostino Gemelli 8, Rome, Italy

Diagn Interv Radiol 2017; 23: 118-126
DOI: 10.5152/dir.2016.16187
Read: 3374 Downloads: 809 Published: 03 September 2019


Missed lung cancer is a source of concern among radiologists and an important medicolegal challenge. In 90% of the cases, errors in diagnosis of lung cancer occur on chest radiographs. It may be challenging for radiologists to distinguish a lung lesion from bones, pulmonary vessels, mediastinal structures, and other complex anatomical structures on chest radiographs. Nevertheless, lung cancer can also be overlooked on computed tomography (CT) scans, regardless of the context, either if a clinical or radiologic suspect exists or for other reasons. Awareness of the possible causes of overlooking a pulmonary lesion can give radiologists a chance to reduce the occurrence of this eventuality. Various factors contribute to a misdiagnosis of lung cancer on chest radiographs and on CT, often very similar in nature to each other. Observer error is the most significant one and comprises scanning error, recognition error, decision-making error, and satisfaction of search. Tumor characteristics such as lesion size, conspicuity, and location are also crucial in this context. Even technical aspects can contribute to the probability of skipping lung cancer, including image quality and patient positioning and movement. Albeit it is hard to remove missed lung cancer completely, strategies to reduce observer error and methods to improve technique and automated detection may be valuable in reducing its likelihood.

EISSN 1305-3612