If a cancer misdiagnosis has set you back, we'll help you move forward
Cancer misdiagnosis can delay critical treatment, affecting prognosis and leading to potential claims for failure to provide standard care.
If your life, or the life of a loved one, has been affected by a misdiagnosis, missed diagnosis or delayed diagnosis, we can help. If your injuries resulted from the negligence of a GP, doctor, nurse, midwife or other medical professional, you may be entitled to claim compensation.
You can make a compensation claim with the help and support of a specialist clinical negligence solicitor.
In this article
What is cancer misdiagnosis?
Many illnesses present with similar clinical features to cancer in the early stages, and it may be difficult to determine the cause of a patient's symptoms.
Medical professionals should use differential diagnostic procedures to identify the patient's condition and eliminate potentially life-threatening conditions.
A medical professional, such as a GP, may fail to recognise that their patient's symptoms indicate a possible cancer diagnosis.
The GP may fail to carry out appropriate tests or consult with specialists to investigate the condition further. As a result, the GP may provide an incorrect diagnosis. This is referred to as clinical negligence.
Even where tests have been carried out, faulty lab equipment or human error may result in inaccurate reports from the laboratory or clinic.
A cancer misdiagnosis may lead to incorrect or delayed treatment, and the subsequent and avoidable worsening of the patient's condition.
In extreme cases, the error may be discovered too late to offer effective treatment.
How common are cancer misdiagnoses?
According to Cancer Research UK, there are around 367,000 new cancer diagnoses each year. Over half (53%) of these were skin, breast or prostate cancers.
However, every year in the UK, more than 40% of people with cancer are misdiagnosed at least once before they are correctly diagnosed.
According to the NHS, over 100 cancer patients bring claims against the NHS every year, after being wrongly given the all clear.
Cancer Research UK estimates that more than 50,000 patients every year experience a lower survival rate as a result of a missed or late cancer diagnosis.
Only one quarter of cases are diagnosed at Stage 1 (the earliest stage).
Do I have a cancer misdiagnosis claim?
You have the right to claim cancer misdiagnosis compensation if the care you received did not meet the appropriate standard of care, and you were injured by this negligent treatment.
Use our injury claim calculator to find out if you can claim. Alternatively, you can speak to a claims advisor on 0800 376 1001 and find out if you have a claim in minutes.
How long do I have to make a cancer misdiagnosis claim?
For a cancer misdiagnosis claim, you usually have 3 years to make a claim from the date you became aware of the negligent treatment (date of knowledge).
If you are under 18, a parent, guardian or adult 'litigation friend' can make a claim on your behalf. Once you turn 18, you have until your 21st birthday to start a clinical negligence claim.
How much compensation can I claim for a cancer misdiagnosis injury?
The amount of money you could claim will depend on:
- the severity of the consequences of misdiagnosis, and
- any financial losses or costs you have incurred.
At the start of your claim, your solicitor will consider the many ways in which the misdiagnosis has affected your life. Your solicitor will take these considerations into account to calculate the correct compensation award.
Get an accurate compensation estimate (including for multiple injuries), confirm your legal position, and check if you have a No Win, No Fee claim.
Updated December 2023
Compensation Calculator v3.04
General damages are awarded for pain, suffering and loss of amenity (PSLA).
Awards for general damages are set by the Judicial College and published in their guidelines for personal injury awards.
If it can be proved that your injury left you unable to work, special damages can be awarded for any lost earnings, loss of commission or bonuses, and loss of pension contributions. It may also be possible to claim for loss of future earnings, if the medical prognosis establishes that you won't be able to work for any period in the future.
These damages will also cover the cost of any medical procedures you might need to treat or recover from your injury such as corrective treatment and psychological support.
The importance of early diagnosis
It is important that cancers are detected as early and as accurately as possible, giving patients the best chance of a full recovery. If cancer is misdiagnosed, it may result in delayed or incorrect treatment, with potentially severe consequences.
A misdiagnosis or delay in diagnosis might mean the required treatment is different. A patient may, for example, need chemotherapy as well as surgery, or perhaps a full mastectomy to treat breast cancer where a lumpectomy might have sufficed with earlier detection.
Stronger, more toxic, medication or more invasive surgery may have a negative impact on a patient's quality of life, where a cancer has been allowed to advance. Late diagnoses also increase psychological distress for patients and their families.
A patient's chance of five-year survival may also have been reduced.
Harm arising from a delay can include:
- Unnecessary pain and suffering
- More invasive or prolonged treatment, including cases where chemotherapy or radiotherapy has become necessary as a result of the delay
- A worsened prognosis or poor prospects for recovery
The NHS National Patient Safety Agency (NPSA) defines delayed diagnosis of cancer as when someone who has cancer is either:
- Not investigated or referred for investigation, or, having been investigated, is not diagnosed at the time of investigation or is diagnosed incorrectly; or
- Where a positive test result or diagnosis is not properly communicated to a healthcare professional who can act on the information; or
- Where the information is not acted upon, meaning appropriate treatment is not commenced.
Other delays may occur if a patient does not recognise his cancer symptoms and therefore does not seek healthcare advice, or if the patient fails to attend an appointment for further investigations such as screening.
What types of cancer are at the greatest risk of a delayed diagnosis?
A study by the NPSA revealed that gynaecological, skin, urological and breast cancers were most commonly associated with a delay in cancer diagnosis.
The majority of delays were between one and three months, and in a third of all cases patients sustained harm as a result of the delay.
Clinical negligence claims
Cancer misdiagnosis is usually categorised as clinical negligence. Click on the icon below for more information.
How we can help you with your medical negligence claim
Your solicitor will fight for the best possible compensation settlement for you, and the highly-experienced panel of solicitors have an excellent track record of winning medical negligence claims.
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About the author
Paul is a member of the Law Society Personal Injury Panel, a member of the Association of Personal Injury Lawyers, and has served as a Deputy District Judge, giving him a uniquely broad understanding of the claims process.