A secondary school head of department from Lancashire, who has suffered long-term health problems due to a breast cancer misdiagnosis, has secured £400,000 in compensation with the help of Thompsons Solicitors.
In October 2016, the woman – who does not want to be named - was diagnosed with triple-negative breast cancer at the Royal Lancaster Infirmary. The hospital told her that she would need a lumpectomy, chemotherapy, and radiotherapy.
The 50-year-old mum-of-two underwent surgery and completed a gruelling six-month course of chemotherapy in May 2017.
In June 2020, she was informed that the type of breast cancer had been misdiagnosed in 2016, and in fact, she had oestrogen receptor-positive, not triple negative. Critically, she was also told that if she had received the correct diagnosis, she would have avoided chemotherapy.
The misdiagnosis meant that she not only received chemotherapy unnecessarily but also suffered a delay of over three years in endocrine therapy – critical to her treatment programme.
The misdiagnosis has also had significant health and employment implications, impacting not only her, but also her family.
The woman said: “Getting that misdiagnosis and undergoing unnecessary chemotherapy has been utterly devastating for me and my family. As a result, I suffered from lethargy and joint pain, and ongoing brain fog, and numbness in my fingers and toes.
“During chemotherapy, my children missed out on their mum taking them to and from events because I wasn’t allowed to come into close contact with other people.
“At the time of the misdiagnosis, I was head of faculty at a local secondary school – a role I enjoyed tremendously. I was forced off work while undergoing chemotherapy treatment for six months. On my return, I asked to go part-time while I recovered from my treatment, but this was refused.
“Working full-time post-chemotherapy was very difficult and meant that I was good for little else outside of work, to the detriment of my health and family. At the end of the school year in 2018, I was made redundant.”
She’s since been able to find alternative part-time employment at another school, but this has meant a significant loss of salary.
The woman was put in touch with the national law firm, Thompsons Solicitors, through her husband’s trade union, the FBU. Thompsons launched a compensation claim for the physical and psychological pain, suffering, past and future financial losses and negative impact on her life, because of the misdiagnosis and unnecessary chemotherapy.
In support of the claim, Thompson obtained independent medical evidence from an oncologist and psychologist, who agreed that she could not undertake a full-time role.
The woman added: “Thompsons has provided me with excellent support and legal advice. My solicitor Lyndsay has been brilliant. She’s kept me up to date with proceedings and made me feel at ease, which is quite something, considering how stressful this whole ordeal has been.”
Lyndsay Gibbons, medical negligence lawyer at Thompsons Solicitors, said: "This has been an incredibly traumatic experience for our client. An entirely avoidable error has had life-changing consequences.
“She was badly let down by the Royal Lancaster Infirmary. Such a profound misdiagnosis of her breast cancer has caused unnecessary pain and suffering, not only for her but also for her family.
“We’re pleased that we could secure this settlement for her. We hope this can now provide some closure so that she and her family can move on with their lives.”
Mark Rowe, Fire Brigades Union national officer, added: “We are happy to have played a role in supporting the victim of what was an appalling ordeal, and we wish her and her family the very best for the future. It is not always understood that Fire Brigades Union members get personal injury protection for family and themselves, and this is a good example of that cover working.”