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Hospital Admits Failure In Delayed Breast Cancer Assessment

Breast cancer assessment
29th October 2015

A complaint of “worry and stress” caused by the delay of a healthcare trust in carrying out the required tests to confirm a diagnosis of breast cancer was upheld at a recent court hearing. The claimant was awarded £500 in compensation.

Following the discovery of a lump in her breast and a reversing of the nipple, the patient was referred by her GP to a local trust hospital where a X-ray mammogram and ultrasound scan were carried out. However, the ultrasound scan was unable to detect any sign of disease and doctors could not make a diagnosis. Four weeks later the hospital carried out an MRI scan but, once again, the results were inconclusive.

Another four weeks elapsed before the hospital carried out a biopsy – the removal of cells for microscopic analysis and the final method able to positively identify the presence of cancer. Eight weeks after the initial hospital visit, a diagnosis was confirmed and a mastectomy – the removal of the breast – was finally performed.

Biopsy should have been carried out at single visit

A Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman report was heard in court, which said that the hospital trust should have carried out a biopsy at an earlier stage. According to medical guidelines, at a single visit the patient should have received a “triple assessment” - a mammography and/or ultrasound imaging, and a biopsy involving either the removal of a tissue sample and/or a fluid sample collected from the affected site by a fine needle.

The report stated that the trust “missed opportunities” to arrange a biopsy at the first assessment, which meant the diagnosis of the disease was similarly delayed. The Ombudsman also said there were “failings” in the way that trust staff communicated with the patient about her care.

The delay in diagnosis had not led to the need for more intensive treatment but the ongoing lack of a diagnosis had caused the claimant “anxiety and stress”. The hospital trust admitted their failings and offered an apology for the delay in diagnosis and £500 compensation.