Late diagnosis of cancer proves fatal

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The late diagnosis of cancer presents the NHS with a huge problem, especially in cases of bowel cancer. Medical negligence lawyer Oliver Thorne looks at the legal position.

A staggering 40,000 people are diagnosed with cancer in the UK every year. Among them is a significant proportion whose cancer has initially been missed by their doctor who is treating them.

A recent newspaper article highlighted the tragic case of 35 year old Katie Pearson. Her story sadly echoes a number of the cases of missed bowel cancer that I have dealt with as a medical negligence lawyer. Katie was diagnosed with bowel cancer 2 years after her first symptoms. This regrettably meant that the cancer had already spread into her pelvis and lymph nodes by the time it was detected. Despite numerous attendances at her GP surgery she was repeatedly diagnosed as having haemorrhoids. It wasn’t until Katie collapsed one morning that she was rushed to hospital and underwent a colonoscopy. Two weeks later she was told she had bowel cancer.

The issue of bowel cancer has also been under the spotlight following the death of teenager Stephen Sutton and more recently when the actress Lynda Bellingham revealed that she has been diagnosed with 4 stage bowel cancer. The mother of Stephen Sutton has spoken of her anger about the late diagnosis of cancer despite her son reporting a number of symptoms and suffering from Lynch Syndrome, a genetic condition that increases the risk of bowel cancer.

Where there has been a late diagnosis of cancer it can be incredibly difficult for all those involved to deal with it. However, at some point it is likely that the focus will switch to the legal position and whether there is any redress.

As medical negligence lawyers the biggest legal question we face when dealing with the late diagnosis of cancer is whether or not anything could have been done if an earlier diagnosis had been made. Could the cancer have been treated? Could it have been stopped from spreading? In many cases where the cancer is aggressive it will have spread before anybody could do anything about it, so that even if it had been diagnosed at the earliest point it would not have made any difference to the outcome. However, I do see cases like Katie’s where doctors have failed to listen to their patients and have not had sufficient regard to their symptoms. In these instances the late diagnosis of cancer has had a direct effect on the outcome and the patient’s prospects of surviving.

Only last week I reviewed a case where an X-ray had been taken which showed the possibility of metastases. Unfortunately no action was taken by the GP in that case and sadly for that lady the cancer spread.

If you have cancer and you feel that there has been a late diagnosis which has set back your recovery then it is important to speak to a lawyer who is familiar with dealing with these cases.

To discuss a potential medical negligence claim for the late diagnosis of cancer, then please feel free to email me at [email protected] or call me on 0808 139 1606.

We deal with patients nationwide and are happy to fund cases on a ‘No Win No Fee’ basis.