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Claiming for Delayed & Misdiagnosed Cancer

A delay in treatment, a late diagnosis or a misdiagnosis of cancer can, in worse cases, prove fatal or result in more significant harm to the patient. Medical professionals must undertake early detection and treatment to provide the best possible outcomes.

The outlook may amount to unnecessary stress and harm caused by undue delay. Cancer misdiagnosis claims are possible if you have suffered a misdiagnosis or unreasonable delay of a diagnosis or treatment of cancer.

 

The Most Misdiagnosed Types of Cancer

With our knowledge and experience, we have put together what we believe are the five most common types of cancers that are detected late or misdiagnosed:

  1. Breast Cancer
  2. Prostate Cancer
  3. Lung Cancer
  4. Pancreatic Cancer
  5. Colorectal Cancer

Other common cancers that are often delayed or misdiagnosed by medical professionals are:

This list is not exhaustive as many other cancers are detected late or misdiagnosed.

If you seek clarity or legal advice, contact our experienced claims solicitors today.

 

Why a Late Cancer Diagnosis Is So Damaging

Cancer remains the leading cause of death for both men and women in England and Wales. Being diagnosed with cancer is devastating for you and your family. But, if you’ve been given a delayed cancer diagnosis or a misdiagnosis of cancer, you may be able to make a cancer misdiagnosis compensation claim.

Recent years have seen several published articles which suggest that cancer survival in the UK is among the worst anywhere in Europe and that late diagnosis of cancers in the UK may explain the poor survival rates compared with other countries. It is not surprising against this background that delayed cancer diagnosis claims are on the rise in the UK.

Cancer has an enormous impact on the number of people affected, impacting people with cancer and those close to them. More than 300,000 new cancers (excluding skin cancers) are diagnosed annually across over 200 cancer types in the UK. Each cancer type has various presenting features, though they sometimes overlap.

Approximately one-third of the population will develop cancer in their lifetime. Furthermore, every month the tumour is not diagnosed, the risk of death increases by 10%. As mentioned above, there are over 200 different types of cancer, so misdiagnosis of cancer can sometimes occur. Many cancers share similar symptoms with other illnesses. As a result, doctors and medical professionals can sometimes make incorrect diagnoses.

Cancer is more likely to be treated successfully if it's detected early. However, around 115,000 cancer patients in England are diagnosed too late to give them the best chance of survival. A late cancer diagnosis can have a devastating and often fatal effect on your health, as any delay in treatment may allow more time for cancer to spread. A hold-up in identifying your condition could be considered clinical negligence if a medical professional misses your symptoms and fails to provide the correct cancer diagnosis resulting in poor outcomes.

A delayed cancer diagnosis can have a knock-on effect that slows the medical care process and could lead to late treatment. In severe cases, this can come too late and sadly result in avoidable or early death.

 

The Impact of COVID-19 on Cancer Misdiagnosis Claims

The COVID-19 pandemic saw the suspension of cancer screening for a certain period, with only urgent cases prioritised for diagnosis. Its long-term impact is yet to be fully realised, but it could have severe consequences for some individuals, resulting in late cancer diagnosis. A delayed cancer diagnosis can have fatal implications and may entitle you to compensation.

 

Can I Claim for Delayed Cancer Diagnosis or Misdiagnosis?

If you received a misdiagnosis or delayed cancer diagnosis, you should be able to claim for medical negligence. When a loved one has died due to a misdiagnosis of cancer, it’s possible to recover compensation on their behalf. You may be able to claim if you are the spouse or child of the deceased or if you’re the parent of a child. Often there is a three-year time limit after the date of the death to make a claim, so you must quickly provide your solicitor with instructions. This time limitation may be extended in some situations, but the sooner a claim is made, the better.

Delayed diagnosis and delayed screening claims cover the whole range of professional healthcare practices and are not just limited to hospital or medical treatment. For example, claims can be made concerning treatment provided by doctors, nurses, opticians, and dentists, most commonly where there was an incorrect or missed cancer diagnosis because of, for example, radiology, filing or GP error, resulting in a delayed diagnosis.

NHS guidelines recommend specific cancer pathways from initial consultation to treatment, including a specified time frame for a referral. If these guidelines are not adhered to, you may be able to make a cancer misdiagnosis claim.

In any case, a delay in cancer treatment often means the disease could spread further, reducing the chance of survival. You may have a claim if you can prove your delayed cancer diagnosis was caused by medical negligence.

If you think you are eligible for a claim, call us on 0151 724 7121 or use our contact form.

 

What Is a Negligence Claim for Delayed Cancer Treatment?

A medical negligence claim (sometimes known as a ‘clinical negligence claim’) occurs when a patient takes their medical practitioner or hospital (or both) to court for compensation due to acts or omissions that result in what lawyers call ‘negligence’ or ‘blame’ if the patient has been harmed. For this to happen, the claimant must prove that the care provided fell below the standard that a body of competent medical professionals would consider.

Cancer misdiagnosis claims can be made against your GP or medical professionals for several reasons, including:

  • Failure to diagnose the onset of cancer
  • Failure to complete a proper examination on a patient that was reasonable to undertake to diagnose possible cancer symptoms
  • Failure to carry out ongoing assessments and tests once a diagnosis of cancer has been made

There are other areas of negligence where you would be eligible for a claim.

It is often difficult to know early on whether your medical professionals were negligent in the cause of your suffering. We will require your entire medical history from your GP and hospital to find out where the medical professional went wrong and obtain expert evidence to establish if the treating GP or hospital did get it wrong.

Whatever the circumstances of your case, you may be able to claim for cancer delays or missed cancer diagnosis compensation if you believe medical negligence resulted in your late diagnosis of cancer and its subsequent effects on your health.

A late diagnosis of cancer is any situation where a person showing symptoms fails to have them identified and which could have been detected at the time of presentation. There can be various reasons behind a delayed cancer diagnosis.

 

Late Diagnosis of Breast Cancer

The most common case involves a small, painless mass that the patient discovers. If the lesion does not resolve within one menstrual period, a GP must rule out any possibility of cancer. This includes using diagnostic tests such as mammography, needle biopsy or reference to a surgeon for surgical exploration.

In many cases, the examining doctor will send the patient home as he or she does not consider there is anything to worry about. No referral is necessary. Several months or years later, cancer is finally diagnosed. By this time, it has invaded lymph nodes or possibly spread to other organs (it has become ‘metastatic’).

There are many ways to test yourself at home for breast cancer to combat the symptoms early if you have them, helping to prevent further growth and a potential late diagnosis. There are five steps to testing yourself for breast cancer at home: Breast Self-Exam: How to Check for Lumps and Other Breast Changes (breastcancer.org).

 

Late Diagnosis of Prostate Cancer

In addition to breast cancer being diagnosed late, prostate cancer has shown a worrying trend whereby 37% of cancer cases were at stages three and four.

The stages of prostate cancer can severely affect the survival rate. For example, prostate cancer is often grouped into the following stages:

  • Stages 1 & 2: Tumour has not spread beyond the prostate (often called localised or the ‘early stage’)
  • Stage 3: Cancer has spread beyond just the prostate, yet only to surrounding tissues (often called ‘locally advanced prostate cancer')
  • Stage 4: Cancer has spread outside the prostate to other body parts, such as the lungs, bones and liver (often called ‘advanced prostate cancer’)

For the first time in the UK, statistics indicate that deaths from prostate cancer have exceeded those of breast cancer. The Chief Executive of Orchid, Rebecca Porta, has suggested that due to the cancer delays and failure to diagnose cancer at an early stage to treat it successfully, prostate cancer will be the most prevalent cancer in the UK within the next 12 years.

25% of prostate cancer cases in the UK are diagnosed at an advanced stage, compared to 8% in the USA. These statistics are a sobering thought considering that 26% of all new cancer cases in men are prostate cancer – it is the most common cancer in men and the second most common cause of cancer deaths among men in the UK.

Prostate cancer diagnosis and symptoms:

  • Prostate cancer is diagnosed by using the prostate-specific antigen (PSA) test, biopsies and physical examinations
  • There can be few symptoms of prostate cancer in the early stages, and because of its location, most signs are linked to urination
  • The need to urinate more often, especially at night
  • The need to run to the toilet
  • Difficulty in starting to urinate
  • A weak urine flow or taking a long time while urinating
  • Feeling your bladder has not emptied fully
  • Men with prostate cancer can also live for decades without symptoms or needing treatment because the disease often progresses very slowly

If your GP has failed to refer you or examine you due to prostate cancer symptoms, or the hospital has failed in their professional duty to spot the signs in time, you may have a claim for compensation for a late prostate diagnosis.

 

Late Diagnosis of Lung Cancer

Lung cancer is when abnormal cells divide in an uncontrolled way to form a tumour in the lung. The main symptoms are a cough, breathlessness and weight loss. The treatment you need depends on what type you have as well as your general health. Treatments include surgery, chemotherapy and radiotherapy.

A  BBC News report found that “Doctors in Britain are 'missing opportunities' to spot lung cancer at an early stage”. The study found around a third of people with the condition die within 90 days of their initial diagnosis.

They found people were more likely to die early if they were male, over the age of 80, currently smoking, were socioeconomically deprived, or lived in rural areas. They were also less likely to have had a chest X-ray requested by their GP four months before diagnosis.

It has been found that people who presented to their GP with symptoms of lung cancer were initially sent away, and a diagnosis of the disease was not made until up to a year later when the symptoms had not eased. These included a cough, breathlessness, and an ache or pain when breathing or coughing.

Despite the symptoms of lung cancer being more apparent compared to other types of cancer, there’s still mass negligence in misdiagnosis and late diagnosis, which can be fatal.

 

Late Diagnosis of Pancreatic Cancer

Pancreatic cancer is one of the cancers with the poorest prognosis, with a 5-year survival rate of just 5%. Diagnosis often occurs at an advanced stage of the disease, when the tumour can no longer be operated on due to the late clinical symptoms.

Nine in ten patients diagnosed with pancreatic cancer as an emergency presentation will sadly die within a year, and only four in ten will survive more than one month. The number of men and women diagnosed with pancreatic cancer in Accident and Emergency (A&E) is double that of people diagnosed with all types of cancer.

44% of men and women with pancreatic cancer in 2015 were diagnosed in A&E. The majority of these patients, over 3,600, did not know they had pancreatic cancer until they arrived at Accident and Emergency. By that time, the cancer was so advanced that only 400 people survived longer than a year.

Pancreatic cancer can be challenging to diagnose because it can share symptoms with diseases other than cancer, and there is a chronic lack of awareness about the symptoms. The most common symptom of pancreatic cancer is abdominal pain, which is usually associated with several other conditions. At first, patients and healthcare professionals may dismiss these symptoms as nothing to worry about, which is why patients end up presenting at A&E when the pain becomes excruciating.

If you believe that your GP or treating hospital has failed to diagnose pancreatic cancer in time, please contact us to make a possible claim for compensation.

 

Late Diagnosis of Cervical Cancer

The NHS in England offers routine cervical screening to females aged 25–64. Cervical cancer often presents in the early stages of inter-menstrual bleeding, post-coital bleeding or painful intercourse. Symptoms of more advanced cervical cancer may include weight loss, back pain or referred pain in the legs.

If cervical cancer is diagnosed early, the chance of being cured is usually good. Treatment for cervical cancer depends on the staging. Early cervical cancer can be treated by cone biopsy or surgical excision. Mid-stage cervical cancer is treated with hysterectomy, sometimes with pelvic radiotherapy, and late-stage cervical cancer is treated with chemotherapy.

Mistakes in diagnosing cervical cancer can be very serious. To succeed in a cancer misdiagnosis claim, you must prove that the delay affected the outcome. Usually, this means you must prove that the cancer progressed to an advanced stage during the wait. Therefore, delays of a few months may not be enough. However, if cancer is left, it is likely to grow and can spread to other parts of the body.

Medical negligence claims may be brought for:

  • Failure to carry out an adequate examination or take an accurate history
  • Failure to refer a patient to a gynaecological oncologist for further investigation
  • Mistakes in interpreting smear tests
  • A mistaken diagnosis of cervical cancer, resulting in unnecessary surgery

 

Other Types Of Cancer Negligence Claims

Less common examples of medical negligence within cancer but just as important are bowel and skin cancer. Due to skin cancer usually being somewhat easier to spot compared to other types of cancer, medical professionals are more likely to diagnose cancer early and begin treatment to prevent death and worsening of the patient’s condition. However, in rare types of skin cancer, such as melanoma, negligence can still occur in the form of a late diagnosis and failures to diagnose which has led to deaths in many cases in the UK.

However, bowel cancer is different due to being harder to spot the initial symptoms of cancer:

  • A change in your normal bowel motion
  • Pain and discomfort in the abdomen
  • Bleeding in stool
  • Unexplained weight loss

The symptoms are not initially concerning and would not usually provoke a reaction to getting tested for bowel cancer, so if you have experienced or are experiencing any of the above symptoms, you should get tested immediately. These symptoms can also be easily missed and waved off by medical professionals, leading to delayed screenings for bowel cancer and potentially leading to a late diagnosis. If you have experienced a late bowel cancer diagnosis by a medical professional, you may be entitled to compensation.

 

Contact Hutcheon Law to proceed with a cancer misdiagnosis claim.

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