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Cancer negligence claims

With appropriate medical care, many cancers can now be effectively treated and survival rates can be excellent. Even in cases where there is no prospect of a cure, modern treatment has progressed so that for many, symptoms can be held at bay, and quality of life improved. Of course, this all depends on early detection and national screening programmes are in place for some cancers (breast, cervical and bowel) to help with this.

For the most part, the standard of cancer care in the UK is excellent. However for a small minority of patients, things can go badly wrong, perhaps because their GP failed to refer them to a specialist, crucial investigations were not undertaken, or test results were misreported resulting in misdiagnosis.

At Boyes Turner we are highly experienced in pursuing cancer negligence claims, having acted in a large number of cases, for both adults and children.

Types of cancer negligence claims

No two cancer claims are ever the same. We have acted in cancer negligence claims against both GPs and hospitals, and in some cases there are multiple defendants, perhaps because the GP has delayed referral, and then the hospital has failed to undertake crucial tests or has misreported the results.

There are over 200 different types of cancer, some more common than others and we have experience in acting for clients with numerous different forms of the disease, including breast cancer, bowel cancer, cervical cancer, spinal cancer, prostate cancer and sarcomas.

Sarcomas are a rare form of cancer that develops in the bones or soft tissues of the body, and commonly affect teenage children and young adults.  It often occurs in the long bones of the body, the ribs, pelvis and spinal column.

Regardless of the type of cancer involved, if you have concerns about how your diagnosis or treatment has been managed, then we can offer you advice as to whether or not there might be a claim to pursue.

GP referral

GPs should be alert to signs and symptoms of possible cancer. There are many different types of cancer, each of which may be associated with a wide range of symptoms which can make it difficult for a GP to know when they should refer their patient to a hospital specialist. To help, the National Institute of Health & Clinical Excellence (NICE) has published a series of referral guidelines, categorised according to the type of suspected cancer. The guidelines help doctors work out which patients they should refer and how quickly.

In cancer negligence cases it is often at this stage that things can go wrong. If a referral isn’t made when it ought to be, it can result in a delay in diagnosis, during which time the patient may be experiencing worsening symptoms, and also anxiety. A GP may well be considered negligent if they have failed to follow a clear referral guideline, or even if they have followed a guideline but have failed to take into account other factors which ought to have resulted in a referral.

Hospital investigations

Once a referral has been made, the hospital specialist, usually an Oncologist, will decide what investigations are required to make the diagnosis. They too are guided by NICE guidelines. For instance, in cases of suspected breast cancer, a triple test is usually used which involves clinical examination and assessment, imaging (i.e. mammogram / ultrasound) and tissue examination following a biopsy. In cases of suspected bowel cancer, a sigmoidoscopy or colonoscopy are likely to be required. It is important that the correct investigations are selected and the results reported accurately.

Diagnosis of cancer

Once the test results are available, the hospital specialist will be able to confirm whether or not the patient has cancer. If they do, the results will also allow the doctor to confirm what stage the disease is at.

Unfortunately cancer diagnosis mistakes are sometimes made, particularly when test results are misreported, for example when scan results are not reviewed thoroughly enough, or biopsy results are not recorded properly. This may result in patients being told that they do not have cancer, when in fact they do. Alternatively, it can result in patients receiving treatment for a cancer which they do not have.

Cancer treatment

Staging is important because it helps to determine what type of cancer treatment is required. If the staging is incorrect, it can lead to the wrong treatment.

If the cancer is just in one organ it may be possible to provide a local treatment, such as radiotherapy which targets a certain place in the body, or indeed surgery. However, if the cancer has spread further, a whole body treatment may be needed such as chemotherapy. Sometimes more than one type of treatment is used, for instance, chemotherapy following surgery. Treatments are developing all the time with new techniques being trialled (such as HIFU for prostate and other cancers).

On occasions, mistakes are made in the treatment of cancer. Cancer treatments are by their nature, very powerful, and if used incorrectly, can cause injury. For example we have acted for clients who have suffered extravasation injuries from chemotherapy treatment procedures.

Making a cancer negligence claim

To find out if you are entitled to make a cancer claim, talk to our expert solicitors confidentially and without any commitment or cost - call us on our free phone number 0800 307 7620 or email us at [email protected].

Please note that there are time limitations on making a claim, for further information click here.

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