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Cancer is a terrible disease, but with modern drug therapies and surgical techniques, it can now be beaten.
Sadly, on occasion patients are denied their best chance of beating the disease by an avoidable delay in diagnosing it. The Clinical Negligence Team can advise patients and their families in those tragic circumstances.
The first signs of cancer may be relatively early, depending on the type, and in that case the onus for making a diagnosis, (or at least of making a referral) is on your GP as they are usually a patient’s first port of call for medical advice. If a GP does not identify that symptoms may relate to any type of cancer and therefore fails to refer to a specialist for further investigation, then a diagnosis can be missed or delayed. Once a referral has been made, sadly missed diagnosis of cancer can still occur. Key symptoms may not be given sufficient attention; in other cases scans may be misinterpreted.
You may have a medical negligence claim if the diagnosis of cancer ought to have been made by a competent doctor earlier than it was, and if the delay in diagnosis has caused you harm.
The “harm” done may be that your prognosis is worse that it would have been with an earlier diagnosis, or that the treatment you now need is more serious or invasive than it would have been. Or simply that you have had to suffer pain over a longer period.
Medical negligence compensation for claims relating to missed diagnosis of cancer is awarded in two categories: firstly for your pain and suffering, and loss of ability to do the things you used to be able to do, and secondly for any direct financial losses which you have suffered or will suffer in the future.
In cases of missed diagnosis of cancer, as well as an award of damages for pain and suffering, compensation could include a claim for care given by a relative, loss of earnings and in some cases the costs of any medical treatment rendered necessary by the missed diagnosis.
The extent of the compensation will vary widely between types of cancer and depending on individual outcomes.
Joachim Stanley won compensation for a male client following a delay in diagnosing that he had kidney cancer. Our client presented with symptoms of blood in his urine and pain on passing urine. There was a failure to investigate this fully, and his condition was not diagnosed until over a year later.
Fortunately, his prognosis was excellent and he made a good recovery. Nevertheless, he experienced a period of pain and suffering that a more prompt diagnosis would have avoided. Our client received compensation of £7,500 for this additional period of pain and suffering.
Kerstin Kubiak, Partner in the Clinical Negligence Team, acted for Mr X in relation to his claim against his GP for failing to refer him for further investigations when he presented with early signs of bladder cancer.
Mr X should have been referred quickly to the one-stop haematuria clinic due to his symptoms where it is likely further investigations would have led to a diagnosis of bladder cancer. Instead, due to his GP’s negligence, there was an 8 month delay in the referral, so that by the time he was seen at hospital the cancer was more extensive than it would have been with an earlier diagnosis. Mr X required a cystoprostatectomy rather than a transurethral resection of a bladder tumour and more extensive chemotherapy and radiotherapy. He later developed an incisional hernia and was left with incontinence and impotence. Mr X’s GP admitted negligence and Mr X’s claim was settled out of Court.
Paul Rumley, who has a speciality in cancer cases, won compensation of £127,500 for the family of a man who died from an aggressive type of bone cancer after an orthopaedic surgeon tragically missed the diagnosis.