Over recent years, the treatment of cancer has advanced dramatically. Many forms of cancer now have record survival rates. Nonetheless, further research is needed and awareness of signs and symptoms is still the key to beating breast cancer.
This Breast Cancer Awareness Month Boyes Turner are supporting thousands of organisations worldwide in highlighting the importance of early diagnosis and prompt treatment to give breast cancer sufferers the best chance of a good and long lasting prognosis.
A diagnosis of cancer is always devastating but detection at an early stage and a prompt referral for treatment are critical to a successful outcome.
As clinical negligence specialists we are regularly contacted by people who have experienced a delay in diagnosis of breast cancer leading to an exacerbation of their condition, the need for more invasive treatment, increased pain and disfigurement. Some of our saddest cases have required us to act for the bereaved partners and children of women whose untreated cancer has resulted in premature death.
Sometimes the delay has occurred because a GP fails to consider breast cancer as a diagnosis and suggest a review of ongoing symptoms. In other cases, having suspected breast cancer, the GP or the surgery staff, fail to refer a patient for further investigations.
We have seen cases where a referral to the wrong specialist has taken place, or where there has been an unnecessary delay in arranging tests or treatment, or follow up from an abnormal test result. In some cases incorrect reporting of scans or test results gives false reassurance which in turn leads to further delay.
Recently scientists at the Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute published results from a genetic study which found that primary breast tumours do not spread until the later stages of the disease. Research findings such as these reinforce the importance of early action as localised tumours are easier and less invasive to treat and offer the patient a better post-treatment long term prognosis.