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Missed or delayed diagnosis of bladder cancer leads to poorer outcomes

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    Bladder cancer survival rates are getting worse, unlike many other cancers. What is causing this and what can be done to improve survival rates?

    By Simon Elliman

A recent report co-written by the chair of Action on Bladder Cancer reveals that despite bladder cancer diagnoses reducing by 19% between 1990 and 2009 the overall number of deaths from bladder cancer dropped by only 10%, which indicates that survival rates are actually getting worse.

Mr Hugh Mostafid is a Consultant Urologist at the Royal Berkshire Hospital and Chairman of Action on Bladder Cancer.  He recently co-authored a report “Falling bladder cancer incidence from 1990 to 2009 is not producing universal mortality improvements” which was recently published in the Journal of Clinical Urology.  He states that early detection and treatment of bladder cancer is vital.  It is reported that there is often a huge lack of understanding about the disease which can lead to misdiagnosis or delayed diagnosis.

Here at the Clinical Negligence Team we see the often devastating effects of delayed diagnosis of bladder cancer and so fully support the awareness raising campaign of Action on Bladder Cancer.

SYMPTOMS OF BLADDER CANCER AND WHAT SHOULD HAPPEN

Mr Mostafid states that one of the most common red flags for bladder cancer is blood in the urine, which should be reported to your GP straight away.  At this point, a GP should refer you to a urologist for further investigation.

All too often patients are dismissed and told to come back later only if they see blood in their urine again.   By this time it might be too late.  If a GP doesn’t react swiftly to blood in a patient’s urine it could lead to a delayed diagnosis of bladder cancer and in turn a worse outcome due to the cancer being at a more advanced stage.

People are also often unaware of what places them at higher risk of bladder cancer.  Everyone now knows the link between smoking and lung cancer but there is also a link between smoking and bladder cancer as the carcinogens from cigarette smoke pass into the urine and thus end up in the bladder in high concentrations.

WHAT MORE CAN BE DONE?

The report highlights the following steps that must be taken to improve care and survival statistics:

1. The general population and frontline doctors need to be more aware and understand the signs of bladder cancer;

2. All people with suspected bladder cancer need equal access and treatment to care, regardless of their gender, age, region and socio-economic status;

3. The treatment of non muscle-invasive bladder cancer in particular needs to be improved with earlier radical treatment, particularly in females.

OUR EXPERIENCE

At the Clinical Negligence Team we have seen the devastating results of delayed or missed diagnosis of bladder cancer, such as in a recent case that we settled out of court.  One of my colleagues, Kerstin Kubiak, recently obtained compensation for her client, Mr X, who suffered due to a delayed diagnosis of bladder cancer.

Mr X correctly went to his GP with early signs of bladder cancer but the GP failed to refer him to a urologist as he should have done.  It is likely that an early referral would have picked up the cancer but the GP’s negligence delayed diagnosis by 8 months.  This delay led to Mr X having a much worse outcome with more invasive surgery, more extensive chemotherapy and radiotherapy, and caused incontinence and impotence.

We strongly support the recommendations of greater awareness of frontline doctors, such as GPs, to ensure that, when a patient does present with symptoms which could be due to bladder cancer, these symptoms are not dismissed and prompt referral is made to ensure the best outcome for the patient.

If you think that you have suffered due to delayed diagnosis of bladder cancer the Clinical Negligence Team is here to help.  We are experts in claims relating to missed or delayed diagnosis of bladder cancer and will advise you if you might have a claim and then work to ensure that you get the highest level of compensation for your injuries.  Please contact us today for further advice.

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