Missed cancer diagnosis claims

Updated: October 8, 2018

Introduction

NHS statistics reveal that every year as many as 100 cancer patients bring claims against the NHS after being wrongly given the all clear by medical professionals.

Missing a vital cancer diagnosis may mean patients later enduring more radical therapies to fight the disease. It may also mean that a patient endures unnecessary pain and suffering, and in some cases, the disease may have reached a point where treatment is no longer effective. Recent analysis by Cancer Research UK estimates that more than 50,000 patients every year may have their survival rate cut because of a missed or late diagnosis of their cancer.

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What types of cancer are most commonly missed?

A study by the National Patient Safety Agency revealed gynaecological, skin, urological and breast cancers were those most likely to be commonly associated with a missed diagnosis.

The reasons for missed or late diagnosis vary depending on a range of factors, and some cancers are more difficult to identify. Nevertheless, where a cancer patient's standard of care has fallen below the accepted standard and a diagnosis is missed due to a medical professional's negligence, it may be possible to make a clinical negligence compensation claim.

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How can a missed diagnosis of cancer happen?

Early symptoms of cancer are not always obvious; therefore, a patient's GP may fail to recognise the key signs. Where the GP fails to identify a potential cancer risk and does not refer his patient for further investigations, the diagnosis may be missed.

Even where a referral to a specialist has been made a diagnosis may be missed through other errors.

These may include:

  • Mixing up tissue samples
  • Losing test results
  • Misinterpretation of scans
  • Failure to act on test results
  • Wrongly giving the "all clear"
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Do I have a claim for a missed cancer diagnosis?

If a patient believes that a competent doctor should have been able to diagnose the cancer and that by not doing so the patient has sustained harm, then he may have a claim for medical negligence.

Harm can be defined as having a worse prognosis due to the missed diagnosis, or having to undergo more serious or invasive treatment than would otherwise be the case. The claimant may have also endured pain for a longer period of time.

To evaluate whether a patient has a claim a solicitor will need to examine the Claimant's medical notes. These will reveal how many times the doctor was consulted before referral for further tests. They may also demonstrate whether or not the doctor considered factors such as the Claimant's age, lifestyle, occupation or past medical history when assessing his symptoms.

The solicitor will also discuss the impact of the missed diagnosis and how this changed the outcome of the cancer.

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What compensation might I receive?

Compensation payments for missed cancer diagnosis vary widely, depending on the type of cancer and how the late diagnosis affects the individual outcome.

Awards are divided into two categories:

  • General damages for the pain and suffering the claimant experienced and for any loss of ability to participate in previously enjoyed activities
  • Special damages to reimburse any direct financial losses, such as cost of care and loss of earnings, both now and in the future
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How much compensation can I claim for a missed cancer diagnosis?

The amount of compensation you will receive depends on a number of factors. Our personal injury compensation calculator provides an accurate estimate of your likely compensation.

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Meet the team

The nationwide network of QLS solicitors take on all types of clinical negligence claims, from more minor injury cases to life-changing injury. Chosen for their track record in winning claims, Quittance's panel solicitors have years of dedicated experience.

Meet the team - click here.

Kevin Walker Serious Injury Panel Solicitor
Carol Cook Clinical Negligence Panel Solicitor
Lee Raynor Clinical Negligence Panel Solicitor
Paul Carvis, Personal injury solicitor

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.

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