There are many different types of cancer and sometimes cancer is diagnosed when in fact you are not suffering from the disease at all.

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1 About Cancer Cancer is a disease where there is a disturbance in the normal pattern of cell replacement. The cells mutate and become abnormal or grow uncontrollably. Not all tumours are cancerous (i.e. malignant). Some tumours are non-cancerous (benign). Put simply, this means that they do not spread to other areas of the body. There are many different types of cancer and sometimes cancer is diagnosed when in fact you are not suffering from the disease at all. Missing a Diagnosis of Cancer: Did it Cause Harm? The key factor in successful treatment of cancer and increasing survival rates is early diagnosis. Early detection and treatment is therefore essential. What must be established is that something would have been done differently if an earlier diagnosis had been made, and that earlier treatment would have made a difference to the outcome. If, as a consequence of negligent treatment, there has been a delay in diagnosis of cancer then compensation may be payable for the worsening of the illness and the more extensive treatment that you may require as a result. Importantly, a delay in cancer diagnosis may have deprived you of the chance for a cure. This can cause psychological harm as well as physical harm. Difficulties of Proving Negligence in Cancer Cases Published evidence about the development of cancers and growth rates of tumors, and about the treatment of different cancers, offer some indication of what the effect of delayed diagnosis may have been on the prognosis for cancer patients. There are many different types of cancer and the minimum period of delay that can said to cause an adverse outcome, varies, depending on the type of cancer and how aggressively it grows. In most cases, the delay will need to be some months (rather than weeks) from Page 1 of 5

2 the date that a doctor should have made or suspected the diagnosis and referred you a specialist. However, it can be difficult to prove that delay has caused harm, even in cases where a mistake has been made. This is because it can be very difficult and sometimes impossible to show that any mistake or delay has made any difference to an individual's life expectancy. Even if it is not possible to show that delay has impacted on life expectancy, it may still be possible to claim for the additional pain and suffering that have been caused by delay in pain relief, and by the failure of doctors to relieve the suffering. Common Errors The most common mistakes resulting in a delay in diagnosis and treatment of cancer are: Not examining a patient or performing an inadequate examination. Not recognising signs and symptoms of cancer. Failure to investigate symptoms. Ignoring, losing or misinterpreting test results and misreading x-rays Failing to refer a patient to a specialist or not referring to a specialist quickly enough. Failure to monitor patients with a family history of cancer. Failure to perform appropriate follow-up care. Types of Cancer Breast Cancer One in every ten women in the UK will be diagnosed with breast cancer at sometime in the lives. It is the most common form of cancer in women and most cases are diagnosed in women who are over 50 but the disease does affect younger women as well. Page 2 of 5

3 Delay in treatment due to the failure on the part of a GP to undertake a breast examination or to identify an obvious breast lump or underarm lump during an examination. Failure on the part of a GP to refer a woman to a specialist once a breast lump is detected. Failure on the part of the hospital to undertake the appropriate test/investigations, in the form of an ultrasound, fine needle biopsy, mammogram, CT and MRI scan. Failure on the part of the hospital to properly interpret the biopsy or other test results. Failure on the part of the hospital to perform adequate follow up. Failure to recognise and act upon potentially worrying symptoms, such as pain in the breast, nipple discharge and orange peel appearance of skin. Cervical Cancer This type of cancer is generally regarded as a largely preventable disease due to the fact that pre-cancerous changes can usually be detected by cervical smears. Such screening can almost eliminate the chances of developing this cancer. However, such tests must be carried out properly and interpreted by specialists. A failure on the part of a GP to perform appropriate screening tests resulting in a delay of diagnosis. A failure to take necessary steps when cancer of the cervix is suspected. Failure to have a biopsy performed when the physical examination results are abnormal. Misinterpreting the smear or biopsy results. Failure to react quickly to biopsy findings and/or recommend appropriate treatment options. Prostate Cancer Prostate cancer is the most common type of cancer in men. Most prostate cancer can now be found using modern diagnostic techniques before they cause symptoms. Symptoms that can be due to cancer of the prostate are delayed or slowed start of urinary Page 3 of 5

4 stream, urinary dribbling (especially immediately after urinating), urinary retention, blood in the urine, excessive urination at night and pain with urination. Ignoring or failing to recognise a patient's symptoms. Failing to perform a prostate examination or PSA blood test. Failing to identify a cancerous mass during a prostate examination. Failing to monitor patients with a family history of cancer of the prostate. Failing to perform a biopsy when test results are abnormal. Ignoring blood test or biopsy results. Failing to follow-up with the patient. Bowel Cancer Bowel cancer is the second most common cause of cancer deaths in the United Kingdom. Bowel cancer almost always arises from a polyp (benign growths on the wall of the bowel) which may bleed intermittently before a cancer develops. Misdiagnosis usually results from a failure to properly evaluate complaints of rectal bleeding. There are various risk factors that may increase the chances of developing this type of cancer. It is more likely to occur in people over the age of 50, in those who have diets that are high in fat and calories, when polyps are present, in those with a family history of bowel cancer and those who have ulcerative colitis. This type of cancer is established by various tests, such as stool tests to check for hidden blood, barium enema, a digital rectal examination, x-rays, a sigmoidoscopy or colonoscopy and a biopsy. Testicular Cancer Testicular cancer is the most common cancer in men between the ages of 20-40, however, with early detection and treatment the recovery rate is 95%. The cause is not known but it does run in families and is associated with un-descended testicles and trauma. Page 4 of 5

5 It commonly presents with a swelling or lump in the testicles, which must be reported to your GP. The GP should undertake an examination of the testicles and refer you to an Urologist for further tests and investigations. If cancer is diagnosed then surgery is the best way to treat it. It may also be necessary to have chemotherapy and radiotherapy. Provisional Damages In appropriate circumstances, it may be possible to claim for present injuries, and to reserve the right to make a claim at a later stage in the event of serious deterioration or a later serious disease arising out of the original negligence. Do you need advice about a potential claim? If you would like to talk to one of our medical negligence solicitors, in confidence, call us on for a free, no obligation assessment of your case. Page 5 of 5

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