Cancer is, unfortunately, a fairly common disease with around 1 in 3 people thought to suffer from it at some point during their lives. That’s means around 298,000 people in the UK are diagnosed with cancer every year. Receiving a cancer diagnosis is always shocking and stressful, but patients naturally expect to receive high quality care throughout their treatment. Luckily, the majority of patients experience good cancer care but sadly medical negligence does occur.
Cancer Negligence Claims – common causes
Amongst the ways in which cases of cancer can lead to medical negligence claims are:
• A failure to diagnose cancer following tests, leading to a delay in the patient starting treatment.
• A diagnosis of cancer when the patient doesn’t actually have cancer.
• Symptoms that could be a result of cancer being dismissed as something else, meaning the patient doesn’t receive necessary tests.
• A delay in cancer diagnosis due to symptoms being related to other illnesses instead.
• A failure to inform a patient of the risks of a procedure or misinforming them of their prognosis.
• A failure to properly examine a patient who is suspected of having cancer, or a failure to monitor a patient considered to be at high risk from the disease.
• Improper methods or procedures being used when carrying out tests (such as biopsies), which leads to either misdiagnosis or the cancer being missed.
Early diagnosis of cancer is extremely important, as diagnosing the disease early on and treating it as soon as possible can massively increase a patient’s chance of survival. However, the more advanced the disease is when it is diagnosed, the harder patients find it to recover. This means that if you or someone close to you has been misdiagnosed, or a cancer has been missed due to negligence, it’s important that you seek the advice of a specialist medical solicitor as soon as possible.
Misdiagnosis of cancer – our client’s story
Misdiagnosis of cancer is sadly far too common. Our own senior partner lost his father to cancer after it had been misdiagnosed consistently by his GP.
Here is a story of just one of our recent cancer misdiagnosis cases, and how we successfully claimed compensation for her family.
Our client – a lady went to her local GP complaining of a lump in her breast. She was 46 years old with a family history of breast cancer. She was referred, by her GP, to a specialist who concludes that nothing is wrong. 2 years later she found another lump in a similar area of her breast. She was referred to a cancer specialist once again and, this time, a correct diagnosis of stage 3(b) breast cancer was made. It was proved however, through a review of the earlier x-rays, that the cancer did, in fact, show up on the first mammogram taken two years previously – but the diagnosis of cancer was somehow missed.
Because she was not given prompt treatment, sadly the lady subsequently died from her breast cancer.
Result – Her family brought an action under the Fatal Accidents Act. We helped them to recover medical negligence compensation of £285,000
What are the most commonly misdiagnosed cancers?
The four types of cancer the most commonly misdiagnosed are as follows;
- Breast cancer – too many examples of invasive breast cancer are diagnosed in error as breast inflammation of the breast, fibrocystic breast disease or non-cancerous cysts.
- Colorectal cancer – it is sadly not unusual for this type of cancer to be misdiagnosed as a variety of inflammatory bowel diseases (IBD) or as ulcerative colitis or even hemorrhoids.
- Lung cancer – too many doctors diagnose this incorrectly as a with respiratory conditions like pneumonia or tuberculosis. Click here to read more about claiming compensation for lung cancer misdiagnosis
- Pancreatic cancer – this is also often misdiagnosed as irritable bowel syndrome or as gallstones pancreatitis or even as diabetes
How common is cancer misdiagnisis and medical negligence?
Recent research has found that over 50,000 people are dying prematurely in the UK every year because early cancer signs have been missed. Remarkably 50% of cancer cases are now being diagnosed late.
Cancer charities have said it is an “outrage” that cancer sufferers are dying early due to GPs not picking up on possible early symptoms, and because of delays when patients are referred to hospital.
Cancer Research, who commissioned the study, says that 46% of cancers diagnosed in England are at a late stage, making them much more difficult to treat. It also says that if the worst performing areas for early diagnosis could match the best performing areas, around 52,000 lives could be saved every year. Out of the overall total, 5,000 patients could expect to live at least an extra five years.
The study considered seven types of cancer: bowel, breast, ovarian, prostate, skin (melanoma), lung and Non-Hodgkins Lymphoma. The most likely type of cancer to be diagnosed late was lung cancer, with 77% of cases only being diagnosed when the cancer had progressed to stage three or four, which are the last two stages of cancer. Cancer of the bowel or ovaries and Non-Hodgkins Lymphoma were also likely to be picked up at a later stage whereas breast cancer was generally diagnosed early.
Britain’s cancer survival rates have been branded a “national shame” when compared to other countries by some cancer charities. When compared to the EU average, the UK’s long term survival rates for 9 out of 10 common cancers are lower. This includes common cancers such as breast, bowel and lung.
According to Cancer Research there are two fundamental issues – some GPs just do not spot enough possible cancer cases early enough, or patients experience delays when their GP refers them on to a specialist. If patients were diagnosed early, they could get greater benefit from a range of treatments which improve survival rates.
Cancer Research’s chief executive, Harpal Kumar, said that failure to invest in earlier diagnosis was failing cancer patients.
The report was compiled for Cancer Research by Incisive Health, and found that if diagnosis was quicker this could save the NHS over £200 million a year. This is because early surgery to remove a tumour is simpler than more extensive surgery when the cancer has spread.
Your Cancer Negligence Claim – don’t delay
Whether you are making a negligence claim in respect of your own cancer, or that of a loved one, it’s really important that you don’t delay, as cancer claims, like other cases of medical negligence, are subject to strictly enforced time limits. Therefore your claim must be made initially within 3 years of becoming aware you were mistreated- so it’s a very important for you to contact a medical negligence lawyer as soon as you possibly can.
Cancer Negligence Claim ? Contact our specialists today
If you think you’ve been the victim of cancer misdiagnosis, our specialists can help. We offer a FREE initial phone call, and a FREE first appointment. And, if you’re unable to travel, our team are happy to make home and hospital visits to see you.
We can then make an initial assessment on whether you have a case and, if so, can advise on the next steps you need to take.
- Call us on FREEPHONE 0800 1404544
- Or use the contact form below
Comments or questions are welcome.