Bowel cancer: Screening, delay and misdiagnosis

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Bowel cancer is very common and roughly 41,800 are diagnosed per year as confirmed by Cancer Research UK. Screening is offered to check polyps which could potentially turn in to cancer if untreated.

Common symptoms relating to bowel cancer include abdominal pain, discomfort, feeling bloated, evidence of blood in your stools and a persistent change in bowel habit.

Individuals within the UK only receive regular screening tests from the age of 60.  In some areas of the UK, individuals  who are 55 are invited to attend a bowel scope, in which the lower bowel and rectum are investigated for signs of cancer. If you decide not the attend this session, individuals between the age of 60 and 74 are provided with a home testing kit. This requires the individual to collect samples of their stools on 3 separate occasions so that this can be sent for screening. The individual should receive their results to their home test kit within 2 weeks. If further investigation is required at this stage, you may be called for a colonoscopy.

Some individuals carry a higher risk of being diagnosed with bowel cancer in light of existing conditions being familial adenomatous polyps, Lynch syndrome, Ulcerative colitis or Crohn’s disease. If there is a history of bowel cancer within your family, you also present with a higher risk of bowel cancer. If you fall within this high-risk group and you are suffering from those symptoms mentioned above, it is essential that you obtain further medical opinion to obtain clarification of diagnosis.

However, if you have not yet reached the golden age, but you feel that your symptoms may be linked to those associated with bowel cancer, it is essential that you attend your GP to ensure that if cancer is present, that it is diagnosed and treated quickly.  Unfortunately, the screening process for bowel cancer is not very dignified and individuals can find the examination quite embarrassing, but this could allow cancer to be caught quickly and to be treated within the early stages. If your GP is of the opinion that bowel cancer could be present, they should undertake further investigations, such as blood tests and organising a colonoscopy to determine the diagnosis.

If your GP feels that you require a specialist opinion or an urgent referral you should be seen by a specialist within two weeks. If, under further investigation by a specialist, you are unfortunately diagnosed with bowel cancer, at this time your treatment plan with be discussed with you.

If you have suffered from bowel cancer and you feel that your diagnosis was delayed or misdiagnosed by a medical professional, you could be entitled to make a medical negligence claim.

In order to bring a claim, we must be able to show that the standard of care given by a medical professional that you have received treatment from has fallen below the “reasonable standard”. This could relate to the full investigations not being carried out in light of symptoms which are those within the eyes of a trained medical professional that could be linked to bowel cancer. Furthermore, we must determine that you have suffered a demonstrable loss or injury as a result of your medical professional’s care falling below the “reasonable standard”. Finally, we must show on balance, but for the action, or lack of action as some cases may be, of the medical professional, you would not have suffered a loss or demonstrable injury or it would not be to the extent which it is now presenting at.

If you believe that you have missed out on bowel cancer screening or your symptoms have been not been dealt with sufficiently as a result of the NHS error and have since been identified as having a condition that would otherwise have been picked up during the screening process, or you are a relative of a loved one who may have passed away prematurely because of the NHS failure, then you can call our Legal Helpline on 0808 139 1606 for a free assessment of your case. Alternatively, you can email us at [email protected]

Claims are dealt with on a No Win, No Fee basis, so fear of legal costs should not deter anyone from seeking justice.