A guide to cancer misdiagnosis claims
Cancer services are vastly improved across Britain compared with 20 years ago, but occasionally cancer misdiagnosis does happen.
There are many different types of cancer and making an accurate diagnosis depends on a medical professional correctly interpreting your symptoms and on the result of any tests carried out.
Sometimes cancer is diagnosed when in fact you are not suffering from the disease at all – this can cause highly increased levels of anxiety and can even lead to depression.
A more serious situation can occur if you suffer from cancer, but you are given a negative result following tests, or the medical team treating you fails to make a diagnosis at all.
In this scenario, failure to diagnose can mean that the cancer is allowed to grow untreated. The opportunity to treat the cancer can be lost completely, and we have dealt with cases where it has sadly led to a reduced life expectancy or even death.
Types of missed or misdiagnosis cancer claims
Misdiagnosed breast cancer compensation
Breast cancer is the most common form of cancer found in women.
According to Cancer Research UK, there are over 55,000 new cases of breast cancer every year.
Most diagnoses are in women over 50. However, it can affect much younger women and, sadly, this is where a number of cases involving misdiagnosis can occur.
Breast cancer can either be invasive (invasive ductal carcinoma) or non-invasive.
If the cancer is of a non-invasive type, an early diagnosis can often allow an operation to remove the cancer to take place. Early diagnosis gives a much better chance of survival.
If the cancer is invasive it is known as invasive ductal carcinoma. The cancer cells are found in the ducts and the breast tissue. Sadly, it is known that these cells can spread to other parts of the body.
If you discover changes in your breast or a lump, you should be referred to a specialist unit for further tests by your GP. A biopsy will usually be necessary.
We have been successful in obtaining admissions of liability where biopsies have not been offered or where a woman has reported changes to her breasts and where bleeding has also occurred, but no further follow up treatment has been given.
Your test results have to be correctly interpreted and failure to do so can lead to an incorrect or inadequate diagnosis, or inadequate treatment being given.
Bowel cancer compensation and colon cancer claims
There are more than 40,000 people diagnosed with bowel cancer, which is sometimes referred to as colon cancer, in the UK every year. This type of cancer is often treatable if you are diagnosed with the condition at an early stage.
Cancer of this type can start as a polyp, which can take many years to become cancerous.
If the polyp is removed the cancer may not be allowed to form. Doctors advise that patients should look out for symptoms such as bleeding from the rectum and a change in bowel movements.
On presentation of such symptoms, your GP should refer you to hospital for a screening.
If there is a failure to do this, there may be a delay in diagnosis. Tests carried out to diagnose colon cancer can include a barium enema and a colonoscopy.
Where there is a misdiagnosis however, the forms of treatment available are much more unpleasant and may involve chemotherapy.
Sadly, in extreme circumstances, we have known patients to die as a result of a delay in treatment.
Skin cancer claims
The initial problem usually arises when a mole or mark appears on the skin or changes shape and form. You should seek medical advice whenever a mole changes in any way whatsoever.
Cancerous moles and marks are often raised, perhaps split, and can be of more than six millimetres in diameter. However, this is not a hard and fast rule.
Should you report a problem to your GP, the mole may be removed. The excised material should be sent for testing to see if it is cancerous.
Early diagnosis is important. If such a diagnosis is not made, then the course of treatment can be much more serious and may lead to a risk of premature death.
We deal with many types of cancer misdiagnosis or delay in diagnosis claims, other than those listed above, including bladder cancer compensation claims, cervical cancer compensation and many others.
How long before a cancer misdiagnosis starts to cause adverse effects?
The minimum period of delay, which can be stated to cause an adverse outcome, will vary depending on the type of cancer and how aggressive the tumour is.
However, a delay of months rather than weeks from the date that a doctor should have made the diagnosis, or suspected the diagnosis, and referred you to someone more expert for an opinion, is likely to cause harm.
The test for getting misdiagnosis of cancer compensation is what, on balance of probability, would have been done differently with an earlier diagnosis, and whether that earlier treatment would have made a difference to the outcome.
What do you need to prove in cancer misdiagnosis claims?
To be successful in a claim for compensation for cancer misdiagnosis, it is necessary to prove that the incorrect diagnosis was the cause of an unfavourable outcome.
That is to say, an increase in the chance of an unfavourable outcome is not enough to be awarded compensation. Whatever the cause, the failure to diagnose cancer can be devastating.
Cancer misdiagnosis compensation amounts
How much compensation is awarded for a cancer claim will vary from case to case and will depend on how much of a difference an earlier, accurate diagnosis would have made. Whatever your situation, you can rest assured that our medical negligence lawyers will aim to secure you the maximum amount of compensation possible.
How to start a cancer misdiagnosis claim
If you or anyone you know has suffered from a cancer misdiagnosis or suspects clinical negligence, telephone us now on 0800 0 224 244 for free, impartial advice on your specific circumstances.
There are strict time limits in place to make any compensation claim, so be sure to get in touch as soon as possible for advice.
Macmillan Cancer Care
Freephone support line
020 7436 5881
Marie Curie Cancer Care
Cancer Research UK
AvMA - Action against Medical Accidents
0845 123 23 52
NICE - National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence
Care Quality Commission
ICAS - Independent Complaints Advocacy Service