Delayed Cancer Diagnosis Compensation Claims

If your life, or the life of a loved one, has been affected by a delayed cancer diagnosis, we can help.

If your injuries were caused by the negligence of a doctor, nurse, midwife or other medical professional, you may be entitled to claim compensation.

Claiming injury compensation with a solicitor

You can make a compensation claim with the help and support of a specialist clinical negligence solicitor.

Your solicitor will ask you about what happened, and they will collect evidence to prove the negligence happened. Your solicitor will also work out how much money you can claim, based on your injuries, lost earnings and other expenses.

We can help you make a medical negligence claim on a No Win No Fee basis.

In this article


Outcomes for people with cancer are continuing to improve through better screening programmes, availability of treatments and quality of care. However early detection and referral is still crucial.

The latest analysis by Cancer Research UK estimates that around 52,000 patients a year may have their odds of survival reduced because the disease is not caught quickly enough.

If an avoidable delay results in harm to the patient, a worsening of symptoms or the need for more aggressive treatment, it may be possible to claim compensation for clinical negligence.

What is meant by "delayed diagnosis of cancer"?

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.

    The impact of the delay

    A delay in diagnosis of cancer may mean the required treatment is different, for example a patient may need chemotherapy as well as surgery, or perhaps a full mastectomy to treat breast cancer where a lumpectomy might have been sufficient 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

    Can I make a claim for compensation for delayed cancer diagnosis?

    In some cases, a delay may be unavoidable.

    Many patients have initially non-specific symptoms, and a conclusive diagnosis of cancer may require consultations with specialists and a number of tests. It may also be necessary to carry out a biopsy. These factors can all result in a delay in diagnosis.

    The key issue when determining whether compensation can be claimed is whether or not a patient's care fell below a reasonable professional standard.

    If, for example, a medical professional missed diagnostic signs and failed to refer a patient for tests that would have promptly revealed the cancer, that professional may be found to be negligent. If a clinic or lab fails to return test results promptly, or those results are mislabeled, they may be negligent.

    Your solicitor will address the issues of negligence and liability when they speak to you about your case.

    How long do I have to start a claim?

    If your injury is apparent immediately after medical treatment, you will have 3 years to start a claim.

    It may be that the negligent procedure happened more than 3 years ago, but your injury was only diagnosed recently, within the last 3 years. If so, you may still be able to make a claim.

    What if your injury was diagnosed months or years after treatment?

    You may not be immediately aware of your injury. In some cases, months and even years can pass before symptoms appear.

    The law allows you to make a medical negligence claim up to three years after the 'date of knowledge' (when you first learned of the injury).

    It is recommended that you start a claim as soon as possible, as medical negligence cases can be complex. Starting your claim sooner will give your solicitor more time to gather medical evidence, assess the extent of your injury and to negotiate interim payments and your final compensation amount.

    How much compensation can I claim for an injury?

    The amount of money you could claim for your injury will depend on:

    • the seriousness of your injury, and
    • any financial losses or costs you have incurred.

    At the start of your claim, your solicitor will consider the many ways your injuries have affected your life. Your solicitor will take these considerations into account to calculate the correct compensation award.

    This calculation will factor in 'general damages' and 'special damages'.

    General damages

    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.

    Special damages

    Special damages are for financial losses and expenses you have incurred as a result of the accident.

    What can I claim for after an injury? (see list)

    Examples of special damages (losses you can claim for) include:

    • Lost earnings (including future earnings)
    • Medical treatment costs
    • Physiotherapy
    • Travel costs
    • Costs of care
    • Costs of adapting your home or car

    What is the average injury compensation for an injury claim?

    The Judicial College injury tables give a approximate idea of the ranges awarded for different injuries.

    However, the money you would receive following an injury will depend entirely on your specific circumstances.

    Your injury compensation will be calculated based on the unique impact your injuries have had on your life and your ability to work, and on the actual financial losses you have incurred as a result of your injuries.

    Calculate my injury compensation

    Calculating how much compensation you can claim for an injury can be complicated.

    Our injury compensation calculator tells you if you may have a claim, how much compensation you could claim, and what you can claim for.

    Find out what your injury claim could be worth now:

    How much can I claim?

    How long does a delayed cancer diagnosis claim take?

    How long it can take to settle a delayed cancer diagnosis claim can vary considerably.

    For instance, a simple uncontested medical negligence claim could be settled in 12 to 24 months. If the case goes to court however, the process might take 2 to 5 years. On average a medical negligence claim takes between 12 and 36 months. For more information, see: How long will my claim take?

    How else can a solicitor help me?

    Your solicitor will handle your injury claim from the initial FREE case evaluation, through to the financial settlement.

    Your solicitor will work with other specialists to provide caring and sensitive support and help you with:

    • Financial support: interim payments while you are unable to work.
    • Advice: on personal injury trusts, tax and welfare benefits.
    • Coordination: with rehabilitation providers and therapists.
    • Access: to treatment and therapies not always available on the NHS.

    Will I have to go to court?

    Highly unlikely. Solicitors settle the vast majority of claims out of court.

    Less than 5% of personal injury claims go to court. Generally, only very complex cases, or those where liability cannot be resolved, end up in court.

    Cases that do ultimately go to court are decided by a judge or magistrate, not a jury.

    Even if the claim does go to court, it is very unlikely you will have to attend.

    Read more:

    Will my injury claim go to court and what if it does?

    No win, no fee - the facts

    No Win, No Fee is an agreement with your solicitor (known as a Conditional Fee Agreement or CFA) that means that you can make an injury claim with:

    • no upfront legal fees
    • no solicitor's fees payable if your claim is not successful
    • a success fee payable only if your claim is successful

    No Win, No Fee is the most common way to make a compensation claim.

    No win, no fee - our guarantee

    Our no win, no fee guarantee means there is no financial risk in making an injury claim - even if you don't win your claim. Read more about making a No win, no fee claim

    What do I pay if I win my injury claim?

    Your injury solicitor will receive a success fee which is deducted from your compensation, after your compensation is awarded. The solicitor's success fee can be up to 25%. Your solicitor will agree a success fee with you before you start your claim.

    What do I pay if I do not win my injury claim?

    If your injury claim is not successful then you won't have to pay your solicitor any fees. Your solicitor may take out insurance to ensure there will be nothing to pay.

    How we can help you

    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.

    If you have any questions, or would like to start a No Win No Fee claim, we are open:

    • 8am to 9pm weekdays
    • 9am to 6pm on Saturday
    • 9.30am to 5pm on Sunday

    Call us for FREE advice on 0800 376 1001, or arrange a call back from a friendly, legally-trained advisor:

    Call me back
    • Tick icon FREE consultation
    • Tick icon Find out if you can claim
    • Tick icon No obligation to start a claim

    Injury FAQ's

    Can I claim for someone else?

    Yes. In certain circumstances, it is possible to claim compensation on behalf of another person in the capacity of a 'litigation friend'.

    If an injured person is either too young or vulnerable, too injured or otherwise unable to claim on their own behalf, their litigation friend can handle the claim process on behalf of the injured person.

    The litigation friend will be responsible for communicating with the solicitors, and for making decisions in respect of the claim.

    Read more:

    Claiming on behalf of another person.

    Will I have to visit a solicitor's office to start a claim?

    No. You will not need visit a solicitor's office. Personal injury claims are handled by email, post and phone.

    Should you need to have a medical, this will be arranged at a medical centre near you or at your GP's surgery.

    Read more:

    Will I have to visit a solicitor's office?

    I need the money now - what are my options?

    If you are unable to work and have bills to pay, you may be able to claim an interim compensation payment.

    An interim payment is an advance on your compensation payment. Any amount you receive in interim payments would be deducted from your final compensation payment.

    Read more:

    How to I get an interim compensation payment?

    Howard Willis, Personal injury solicitor

    Howard Willis, Personal injury solicitor