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Cancer Misdiagnosis

Cancer misdiagnosis claims & undiagnosed cancer compensation

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Cancer misdiagnosis can have devastating consequences.
Search for more specific cancer types that have affected you.

  For a confidential chat, call one of our experts today 0151 550 5228

Claiming for cancer negligence

Did you know that it’s estimated that one in ten cases of cancer are initially misdiagnosed? The misdiagnosis of cancer poses a serious issue to those that have the disease, potentially meaning that the cancer is allowed to develop and spread, becoming more difficult to treat or untreatable.

But that’s not the only way that misdiagnosed cancer cases can affect patients. It can leave those experiencing misdiagnosis or delayed diagnosis of cancer feeling vulnerable, let down by the system, and unsure of where to turn to for support. Those who are suffering should be able to rely on the health care system and those responsible for their care and treatment to meet standards, including taking all reasonable steps to diagnose and treat cancer. Where this hasn’t occurred, it may be possible for patients to seek misdiagnosis of cancer compensation to reflect their suffering.

According to Cancer UK, there are more than 200 types of cancer ranging from the more common breast, bowel, lung and prostate cancers to the rare types of tumour and children’s cancers.

The use of smears, scan and biopsies is vital to the early detection and treatment of cancer, especially female cervical cancer involving the lower part of the womb.

If you or a loved one has received a misdiagnosis for cancer caused by a failure, delay or misreading of the results of a smear, scan or biopsy, the consequences can be devastating.

Misdiagnosis of a cancer can lead to unnecessary and painful interventions such as chemotherapy, radiotherapy and surgery for the wrong condition while the actual cause of the symptoms is left undetected and untreated.

Failure to detect a cancer means a crucial opportunity to catch and treat the disease early can be lost. In some cases, the spread of an undetected cancer could lead to major complications in subsequent treatments, which may be fatal.

Here at Your Legal Friend we have supported those taking medical negligence claims forward. We know that compensation can’t undo the experiences associated with cancer misdiagnosis but it can help you move forward. If you’re seeking answers and want to understand what went wrong in your case, a cancer malpractice claim may be able to help you find these. If successful, it will also give you financial compensation, alleviating money worries and allowing you to focus on what really matters – your treatment, recovery, and spending time with loved ones.

Starting a misdiagnosed cancer claim can seem like a daunting prospect but with the support of our legal team and cancer misdiagnosis lawyers, we’ll ensure it goes as smoothly as possible and work on your behalf to secure the best outcome in your case.

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Our expert team will call you...

Our medical negligence team has years of experience working on a wide variety of medical malpractice cases so we understand just how difficult a decision it can be to bring a medical negligence case.

Our Cancer expert team. We deal with medical negligence claims arising from Cancer.

That’s why we are committed to guiding you through every step of the process. We ensure that your claim is handled carefully and professionally by our specialist solicitors, while working alongside medical experts, to guarantee the best results for you.

Our medical negligence team is headed by Laura Morgan who has a wealth of experience in leading complicated, high-value medical negligence cases.

Laura is recognised within the legal profession as a leader in the field of medical negligence and serious injury compensation.  Laura has acted in a wide range of cases over her 17 years of practice and has particular expertise in acting for children who have suffered brain injury due to mismanaged birth or surgical errors, and in managing claims that have resulted in the death of a loved one. Laura has achieved a number of large settlements including £5.4 million for a 7 year old and £4 million for an 11 year old child.

Laura’s expertise and dedication to her clients is recognised in the Chambers guide to the Legal Profession in which she was praised for the efficiency of her approach to case handling and described as “tenacious and detail-oriented”.

Laura has been a member of the Law Society Clinical Negligence Panel since 2005 and accredited as a Senior Litigator in the Association of Personal Injury Lawyers (APIL) since 2006.  Laura is also a member of the specialist lawyers panel for Action against Medical Accidents (AvMA), the UK’s leading charity committed to patient safety and justice.

Talk to us today

For an informal, confidential chat with one of our specialist medical negligence solicitors, call us now on 0151 550 5228(calls free from landlines and mobiles). Or just complete the 'Start a new claim’ option on the right and we'll call you straight back.

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The effects of medical negligence can be devastating for the individual and their families, so securing appropriate compensation for them as quickly as possible is our top priority.

Laura Morgan

Director of Medical Negligence

Your questions... answered

Can I claim for cancer misdiagnosis?

If you’ve been affected by medical negligence when suffering with cancer you may be able to bring a misdiagnosed cancer claim. To do so you must be able to prove that there were missed opportunities to diagnose the disease earlier and that the delays resulted in additional suffering.

To demonstrate that there was a delay in the diagnosis of cancer, you have to show that the treatment or investigations in your case were not performed to a reasonable standard. This could include your GP failing to recognise that your symptoms could be cancer, or failing to conduct the necessary examinations or order tests, or even misreporting investigations that you have undergone. Even after a referral with suspicions of cancer your specialist may have provided incorrect advice or delayed in referral for treatment or even misinterpreted, results or abnormalities not followed up.  

There are multiple ways to shows that a later cancer diagnosis was the result of medical negligence and you being let down by those responsible for your care and treatment.

Claims for misdiagnosis must also show that the mistakes made have caused additional suffering. Again, this can take different forms; avoidable pain, unnecessary treatments, avoidable cancer spread or even shortened life expectancy.  

Each cancer misdiagnosis compensation claim is very different and our team recognises this. We take the time to listen to how you’ve been affected and build a case from there, reflecting your experiences. If you would like to discuss your potential misdiagnosed cancer claim with a team of friendly professionals, you can contact us. We’ll help you understand if you could claim for cancer misdiagnosis and, if you do, support you in taking the next steps to securing the justice that you deserve.

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How much compensation will I get?

The amount of compensation individuals receive for cancer misdiagnosis compensation claims varies, as the final amount takes a variety of factors into consideration. However, the amount can total thousands.

In 2014 the NHS paid out over £194 million to patients that had been affected by medical negligence, paying out the equivalent of £4 million a week. Over the course of 2014, 1,302 patients won their cases against the healthcare system. Of these cases a tenth were related a doctor misdiagnosing cancer. It’s estimated that blunders of medical staff cause 12,500 deaths in the NHS every year, including through misdiagnosis, but it can also have other effects too, such as the need for more extensive surgery or intensive treatment.

The way the compensation process works means that there can be vast differences in the amounts patients receive. For instance, if a doctor misdiagnosed cancer which resulted in the disease becoming untreatable before it was discovered, this patient is likely to receive a greater sum than a patient who experiences a delay in cancer diagnosis and now requires treatment over a longer period of time.

If you decide to bring a medical negligence claim because you have received poor cancer treatment the amount of compensation you could be awarded depends upon your individual circumstances. Factors that impact upon the amount of compensation include  additional pain and suffering caused, as a result of the delay in diagnosis or treatment and financial costs you have experienced; such as going back to work later than you would have liked, being less able to look after you family, needing changes to your home or even car. When you choose to work with Your Legal Friend, our experts and specialist medical negligence lawyers will take the time to fully understand your experience analysis the evidence and instruct the best experts to investigate your case. While it’s impossible to give you an amount without fully understanding your cases, you can talk to one of our advisors to learn more and take the next steps. 

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How long do I have to make a claim?

If you would like to make a claim for cancer misdiagnosis or late cancer diagnosis you must do so within a three-year time period.

This starting point of this timeframe begins when you first realise that you have been let down by the healthcare system, in legal terms this is referred to as the ‘date of knowledge’. This is usually the date on which you cancer is diagnosed. For those who have not been diagnosed with cancer until much later, this means that they have a longer period to bring forward a claim, rather than if the starting point was when you first had concerns.

Identifying the ‘date of knowledge’ can be confusing. For some people it will be a simple process to pinpoint but in other cases it can be quite complex. If you’re unsure whether you can take a claim forward and how long you have left to do so, speaking to a legal professional can help. Backed by experience of working on medical negligence claims, our team can help you understand your misdiagnosed cancer case. We’ll take the time to listen to your experiences and help you identify both if you have a case that can be brought forward and when you must do it by.

While you have a maximum of three years to start your claim in Court it’s often advisable to start the process sooner.

We know that after discovering you have cancer, undergoing treatment, or recovering, bringing a medical negligence claim will be the last thing on your mind. But taking action and seeking professional advice sooner can help improve your chances of success. Every case needs to be supported by factual evidence and this will typically include a witness statement from you. Doing this part of the claims process as close to the ‘date of knowledge’ as possible means that the history of your symptoms, the detail about your experience are clearer. Other evidence, such as medical records, scan and investigations will be easier to obtain too.

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What causes cancer?

Cancer is caused is by cells within the body beginning to act abnormally due to changes in the DNA of these cells. The cells begin to multiply uncontrollably and form masses known as tumours. Not all tumours are cancerous; those that aren’t are referred to as benign.

In some cases, there are causes of cancer linked to lifestyle choices and carcinogens, substances that are capable of causing cancer. However, not everyone who is exposed to causes or risk factors develop cancer and it’s unknown why the disease only develops in a small number of people. In many cases, it’s it not possible to identify the reasons why cells have become cancerous.

Despite this, it’s estimated that around 42% of cancer cases in the UK are preventable, in some cases this is linked to lifestyle choices. The biggest lifestyle factor that can lead to cancer is smoking. Other issues include obesity, poor diet, consuming too much alcohol, and not protecting the skin from the sun.

  • Causes

Causes of cancer vary depending on the type of cancer diagnosed. As well as lifestyle choices there are other potential causes too, including exposure to radiation and certain chemicals that may be found in the workplace, such as asbestos. Being exposed to a cause of cancer, for instance if you smoke, doesn’t necessarily mean that the disease will develop.

  • Risk factors

Risk factors don’t cause cancer but can indicate that a person is more likely to develop the disease. Risk factors vary between the types of cancers but can include inherited faulty genes, pre-existing medical conditions, and ageing. While having risk factors of cancer does mean you’re more likely to develop cancer, in many cases those diagnosed don’t have any known risk factors.

  • Possible risk factors

You may also hear about possible risk factors. These are factors that have been linked to cancer but more research and evidence is needed to support the claims.

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How can cancer be misdiagnosed?

It is possible for all types of cancer to be misdiagnosed; in fact, it’s estimated that up to 10% of cancer cases are initially linked to other conditions. A delayed diagnosis of cancer can have a serious impact on the outcome of treatment, affecting what options are likely to be successful and the prognosis.

In many cases of cancer, the symptoms are initially mild and progressively worsen as the disease develops and spreads. This means that if you visit a doctor during the early stages a misdiagnosis of cancer can occur because the signs and symptoms of cancer are instead linked to other, typically less serious conditions. A quick diagnosis or referral for specialist investigations is important as in most types of cancers the survival rates decline as the tumour grows and spreads.

A swift diagnosis often relies on the doctor considering cancer as a differential diagnosis at your first appointment.  That doctor would need to recognise that your symptoms could be more sinister and ordering tests to rule out other causes. If your GP doesn’t conduct the necessary examinations, order the necessary tests to start the diagnosis process, or link the cancer signs to the disease; a delay in cancer diagnosis can happen. As a result, misdiagnosed cancer can have serious complications, for instance, more drastic surgery being required to completely remove the tumour, radiotherapy that could have been avoided or longer courses of chemotherapy.

Cancer misdiagnosis can also occur in other ways too. For instance, if the necessary tests for an accurate diagnosis are read incorrectly, or if abnormalities in results are not followed up. These examples of how misdiagnosed cancer can occur are due to medical negligence and those affected may be able to make a misdiagnosis of cancer compensation claim.

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What are the survival rates of cancer?

Cancer survival rates vary hugely between different types of the disease and many factors impact a person’s likelihood of beating cancer, from the age of the person to how quickly the condition was diagnosed.

However, overall in the UK across all types of cancer around 50% of those affected by the disease outlive their diagnosis by more than 10 years. The cancer survival rate has doubled in the last 40 years alone and medical advancements are continuously being made to further improve the prognosis of cancer patients. Among the factors that have an impact on cancer survival statistics are:

The type of cancer you are diagnosed with

According to Cancer Research UK the survival rates for different cancers are huge, ranging from 98% for testicular cancer to just 1% for pancreatic cancer. Across the most common types of cancers in the UK, most have a ten-year survival rate of 50% or more.

While there are large variances in the types of cancer it’s important to note that typically the most common types of cancer have had more research and funding for treatments. As a result, more than 80% of patients that are diagnosed with cancer in the UK have a form of cancer that is easier to diagnose or treat with a greater chance of patients surviving their diagnosis by at least a decade.

The grade of cancer at diagnosis

If you’ve been diagnosed with any form of cancer it should then be graded, which may involve further testing. Grading the cancer means assessing how abnormal the cancerous cells are when compared to normal, healthy cells. The grade given gives medical professionals an indication of how the cells may behave and how aggressive the cancer is, although this acts as an indicator rather than an exact prediction.

Typically, cancer is graded 1, 2, or 3, with 1 indicating the cells in the tumour are similar to normal cells and growing slowly, while 3 suggests that the cancerous cells are very abnormal and are growing rapidly. Cancer that is graded lower is typically easier to treat and therefore survival rates tend to be higher.

Whether the cancer has spread to other parts of the body

If cancer has spread to other parts of the body it can make treatment more complex and in some cases a complete cure may not be possible. However, even where a cure isn’t possible treatment to control and relieve symptoms can be used and in some cases patients can live for years following an untreatable diagnosis.

After an initial diagnosis, cancer is staged. The stages indicate how large the tumour is and whether it has affected surrounding tissue or other parts of the body. There are several staging systems but a common one has 4 numbered stages. Stage 1 usually means that the cancer is relatively small and contained, while stage 4 means the cancer has spread beyond where it started, affecting other organs. Survival rates are higher when the cancer is diagnosed in the earliest stage.

The age of the patient at diagnosis

The age of the patient when they are diagnosed also has an impact on survival rates. In adults, the success of treatment tends to gradually fall as people get older.

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Can I claim if my cancer wasn't diagnosed at all?

If cancer is left undiagnosed you may still be able to make a claim for compensation to reflect the medical negligence that occurred and the suffering it caused.

Those responsible for your care should take all reasonable steps to not only provide the treatment you need but an accurate diagnosis too. Even a shortly delay in cancer diagnosis, of six months or more can mean that the condition worsens as does your positive. Cancer that isn’t diagnosed at all goes untreated and will therefore continue to grow and spread to other parts of the body. As cancer worsens it can reach a point where it becomes untreatable.

The effect of undiagnosed and untreated cancer on the body will depend upon factors, such as the type of cancer that has developed and how aggressive the tumour is. If your cancer was not diagnosed until later stages, and it could have been treated earlier you may be able to make a compensation claim if you can prove that medical practitioners missed opportunities to make an earlier diagnosis.

If a family member has died as a result of a delay in diagnosing and treating cancer it is possible for their relatives or dependents to bring a claim for their death. Examples of these include:

  • A widow securing compensation after her husband was told cancer was not causing his symptoms after an inadequate examination. The fatal delay meant that the patient died 4 years later because the period where treatment could have been successful had passed by the time a diagnosis had been achieved.
  • A widower won thousands in compensation after his wife’s cancer was dismissed as ‘swimmer’s ear’ for two years. An investigation found that had the cancer been diagnosed sooner the patient would have had a 90% chance of surviving.
  • One widow’s husband died just eight months from cancer after being given the all clear by medical professionals. Following an operation shortly before the death, medics discovered three tumours that should have been detected a year earlier.
  • One woman’s cancer remained undiagnosed despite two opportunities and tests to detect cancer and meant that by the time a diagnosis was secure the tumour has become inoperable. The female was initially told that a lump growing in her breast was benign.
  • A female with a rare form of uterus cancer was not diagnosed until it was far too late to operate and treat the disease, despite making 58 visits to the doctors in just five months. Those responsible for her care failed to refer her to a specialist.
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Are cancer rates getting better or worse?

According to Cancer Research UK figures for 2014, there were 356,860 new cases of cancer – or a diagnosis every 2 minutes. Cancer rates have increased by 12% in the last 20 years. While the figure has increased it can partly be attributed to improved processes identifying cancer, population growth, and people living to older ages – diagnosis of cancer is highest in people aged over 85.

However, it’s estimated that around 4 in 10 cancer diagnoses are preventable. Factors such as increasing obesity rates, drinking more alcohol, and other lifestyle choices are leading to cancer rates across the UK getting worse, indicating that changes to the average lifestyle could improve the cancer rate overall.

Despite the number of cancer cases in the UK rising, the good news is that earlier diagnosis, screening programmes, better tests and new treatments mean that more people are beating cancer than ever before. In fact, in the last ten years alone the death rates of cancer have fallen by almost 10%.

Medical pioneers are continuing to develop new tests and treatments, some of which are available for those diagnosed with the disease to try. It’s likely that in the coming years the number of people that die as a result of cancer will fall even further. Cancer Research UK’s ambition is for three-quarters of patients to survive their disease by 2034.

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Can I claim if my cancer wasn't diagnosed until much later?

Yes. If you suffered from cancer that wasn’t diagnosed until much later you may still be able to make a compensation claim.

You should be able to rely on medical professionals responsible for your care to take the necessary steps to diagnosis your condition.  If your GP or other healthcare professional have not listened to your symptoms and  missed opportunities to diagnose your cancer or misdiagnosed cancer as another condition, you may be able to make a claim if  your condition is worsen as a result or if you have  suffered additional pain. There is a time limit of 3 years within, which you must start your claim in Court.  The 3 years begin to run from the ‘date of knowledge’, usually when you cancer is diagnosed. While the time limit from the ‘date of knowledge’ gives those affected more time to put forward a claim it can sometimes be difficult to identify when this occurred. In complex cases, for instance those that contained multiple mistakes, it can still be a challenge to pinpoint when your time limit to claim cancer misdiagnosis compensation is. If you’re unsure we can help you. Our expert team will understand your situation and what the next step is.

What are my doctor’s responsibilities when it comes to smears, scans or biopsies?

Your GP/doctor, specialist or other clinician has a responsibility to:

  • Correctly interpret test results from a pap smear, image scan or biopsy (tissue sample)
  • Diagnose symptoms to ensure the right type of cancer is identified and
  • Put appropriate treatment immediately into action.

You may have a strong claim for clinical negligence if the standard of appropriate care fell below expectation due to:

  • Misinterpretation of scans, smear slides or biopsies
  • Failure to realise the importance of your complaints
  • Delayed referral for further tests
  • Missed, delayed or misdiagnosis of cancer type, stage or other complications
  • Lost or misplaced medical records.

Trying to come to terms with how a ‘standard’ clinical procedure failed is not always easy and finding out the reasons why this happened can sometimes be complicated.

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What is a smear test?

Cell samples taken from the inside of the cervix (the lower part of the womb) are smeared across a glass microscope slide to detect cancers, ‘pre-cancers’ (abnormal cell changes) and other conditions.  In older women, there may be insufficient cells for analysis, and so they may require a repeat smear test.

Forty years ago, half of all patients died within one year of diagnosis. Today, average life expectancy, based on the length of time from either the date of diagnosis or the start of treatment, is around six years. Nearly two in three of adult cervical cancer patients can now survive ten or years or more.

Advances in screening and the detection techniques of smear tests, scans and biopsies to detect cancer have significantly improved the interpretation of results, diagnoses and treatments. Their use by doctors to make an early and accurate diagnosis is crucial to extending life expectancy.

If the results of the test show any suspicious signs, such as inflammation, or are actually cancerous:

  • A repeat smear should be taken after several months, or
  • Your GP or doctor should arrange a referral to a specialist gynaecologist.
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What is a false negative test result?

While smear tests are the most effective method of diagnosing cervical cancer, false-negative reports may occur in up to 40% of all tests.

A ‘false negative’ is... where cervical cells that are actually or potentially abnormal or, cancerous are diagnosed as being normal, thereby causing a delay in the discovery of this disease and its treatment.

A ‘false positive’ is... where normal cervical cells are diagnosed as abnormal or cancerous.

As cervical cancers can take up to 10 – 12 years to develop, if abnormal cells are missed during one smear test, they will probably be found on a subsequent test.

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How often should Pap smear tests should be taken?

  • Every 3 years - between ages 21 and 29.
  • Every 5 years (with HPV test) - between ages 30 and 64.
    • If a pap smear result was abnormal, your doctor may advise you to have a HPV test to detect the presence of a virus, which can cause abnormal cervical cells, cervical cancer or genital warts.
  • You're aged 30 or older
  • More frequently - in special cases, e.g. previous chemotherapy or steroid use.

What types of scans are available for cancer diagnosis?

First developed in the 1970s, MRI (Magnetic Resonance Imaging) and CT (computer tomography) are body scanning technologies that, together with ultrasound scans and bone scans, are vital tools in patient diagnosis.

MRI scans – unlike CT scans, MRI scans can be taken from multiple angles to show the detailed definition of all body tissues, both normal and abnormal.

CT scans - provide a cross-section examination of layers of the body to more easily reveal abnormalities at a given depth within the body.

Ultrasound scans - used to determine the exact location of a tumour, for planning radiotherapy and as a guide for biopsies and pain reduction procedures.

Bone scans - involve injecting into the vein a radioactive dye that is absorbed in a greater quantity by an abnormal bone and shows up on the scan as highlighted areas.

The results of an image scan can only be properly acted upon if ‘read’ correctly by an experienced doctor or specialist. It is therefore vital that all scans are examined and reviewed by experts in their field who can correctly interpret the images and advise the patient as to the appropriate next steps and subsequent treatment.

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What is a biopsy?

Biopsies can help differentiate between different types of cancer and are usually carried out when a conclusive diagnosis is needed.

Known as an incisional or core biopsy, a small sample of tissue is taken from the target area to be examined under a microscope.

Other types of biopsies:

Excisional biopsy - an entire lump or suspicious area is removed.

Needle aspiration biopsy - a sample of tissue or fluid is taken with a needle.

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If you’ve been affected by medical negligence when suffering with cancer you may be able to bring a misdiagnosed cancer claim. To do so you must be able to prove that there were missed opportunities to diagnose the disease earlier and that the delays resulted in additional suffering.

To demonstrate that there was a delay in the diagnosis of cancer, you have to show that the treatment or investigations in your case were not performed to a reasonable standard. This could include your GP failing to recognise that your symptoms could be cancer, or failing to conduct the necessary examinations or order tests, or even misreporting investigations that you have undergone. Even after a referral with suspicions of cancer your specialist may have provided incorrect advice or delayed in referral for treatment or even misinterpreted, results or abnormalities not followed up.  

There are multiple ways to shows that a later cancer diagnosis was the result of medical negligence and you being let down by those responsible for your care and treatment.

Claims for misdiagnosis must also show that the mistakes made have caused additional suffering. Again, this can take different forms; avoidable pain, unnecessary treatments, avoidable cancer spread or even shortened life expectancy.  

Each cancer misdiagnosis compensation claim is very different and our team recognises this. We take the time to listen to how you’ve been affected and build a case from there, reflecting your experiences. If you would like to discuss your potential misdiagnosed cancer claim with a team of friendly professionals, you can contact us. We’ll help you understand if you could claim for cancer misdiagnosis and, if you do, support you in taking the next steps to securing the justice that you deserve.

Read less

The amount of compensation individuals receive for cancer misdiagnosis compensation claims varies, as the final amount takes a variety of factors into consideration. However, the amount can total thousands.

In 2014 the NHS paid out over £194 million to patients that had been affected by medical negligence, paying out the equivalent of £4 million a week. Over the course of 2014, 1,302 patients won their cases against the healthcare system. Of these cases a tenth were related a doctor misdiagnosing cancer. It’s estimated that blunders of medical staff cause 12,500 deaths in the NHS every year, including through misdiagnosis, but it can also have other effects too, such as the need for more extensive surgery or intensive treatment.

The way the compensation process works means that there can be vast differences in the amounts patients receive. For instance, if a doctor misdiagnosed cancer which resulted in the disease becoming untreatable before it was discovered, this patient is likely to receive a greater sum than a patient who experiences a delay in cancer diagnosis and now requires treatment over a longer period of time.

If you decide to bring a medical negligence claim because you have received poor cancer treatment the amount of compensation you could be awarded depends upon your individual circumstances. Factors that impact upon the amount of compensation include  additional pain and suffering caused, as a result of the delay in diagnosis or treatment and financial costs you have experienced; such as going back to work later than you would have liked, being less able to look after you family, needing changes to your home or even car. When you choose to work with Your Legal Friend, our experts and specialist medical negligence lawyers will take the time to fully understand your experience analysis the evidence and instruct the best experts to investigate your case. While it’s impossible to give you an amount without fully understanding your cases, you can talk to one of our advisors to learn more and take the next steps. 

Read less

If you would like to make a claim for cancer misdiagnosis or late cancer diagnosis you must do so within a three-year time period.

This starting point of this timeframe begins when you first realise that you have been let down by the healthcare system, in legal terms this is referred to as the ‘date of knowledge’. This is usually the date on which you cancer is diagnosed. For those who have not been diagnosed with cancer until much later, this means that they have a longer period to bring forward a claim, rather than if the starting point was when you first had concerns.

Identifying the ‘date of knowledge’ can be confusing. For some people it will be a simple process to pinpoint but in other cases it can be quite complex. If you’re unsure whether you can take a claim forward and how long you have left to do so, speaking to a legal professional can help. Backed by experience of working on medical negligence claims, our team can help you understand your misdiagnosed cancer case. We’ll take the time to listen to your experiences and help you identify both if you have a case that can be brought forward and when you must do it by.

While you have a maximum of three years to start your claim in Court it’s often advisable to start the process sooner.

We know that after discovering you have cancer, undergoing treatment, or recovering, bringing a medical negligence claim will be the last thing on your mind. But taking action and seeking professional advice sooner can help improve your chances of success. Every case needs to be supported by factual evidence and this will typically include a witness statement from you. Doing this part of the claims process as close to the ‘date of knowledge’ as possible means that the history of your symptoms, the detail about your experience are clearer. Other evidence, such as medical records, scan and investigations will be easier to obtain too.

Read less

Cancer is caused is by cells within the body beginning to act abnormally due to changes in the DNA of these cells. The cells begin to multiply uncontrollably and form masses known as tumours. Not all tumours are cancerous; those that aren’t are referred to as benign.

In some cases, there are causes of cancer linked to lifestyle choices and carcinogens, substances that are capable of causing cancer. However, not everyone who is exposed to causes or risk factors develop cancer and it’s unknown why the disease only develops in a small number of people. In many cases, it’s it not possible to identify the reasons why cells have become cancerous.

Despite this, it’s estimated that around 42% of cancer cases in the UK are preventable, in some cases this is linked to lifestyle choices. The biggest lifestyle factor that can lead to cancer is smoking. Other issues include obesity, poor diet, consuming too much alcohol, and not protecting the skin from the sun.

  • Causes

Causes of cancer vary depending on the type of cancer diagnosed. As well as lifestyle choices there are other potential causes too, including exposure to radiation and certain chemicals that may be found in the workplace, such as asbestos. Being exposed to a cause of cancer, for instance if you smoke, doesn’t necessarily mean that the disease will develop.

  • Risk factors

Risk factors don’t cause cancer but can indicate that a person is more likely to develop the disease. Risk factors vary between the types of cancers but can include inherited faulty genes, pre-existing medical conditions, and ageing. While having risk factors of cancer does mean you’re more likely to develop cancer, in many cases those diagnosed don’t have any known risk factors.

  • Possible risk factors

You may also hear about possible risk factors. These are factors that have been linked to cancer but more research and evidence is needed to support the claims.

Read less

It is possible for all types of cancer to be misdiagnosed; in fact, it’s estimated that up to 10% of cancer cases are initially linked to other conditions. A delayed diagnosis of cancer can have a serious impact on the outcome of treatment, affecting what options are likely to be successful and the prognosis.

In many cases of cancer, the symptoms are initially mild and progressively worsen as the disease develops and spreads. This means that if you visit a doctor during the early stages a misdiagnosis of cancer can occur because the signs and symptoms of cancer are instead linked to other, typically less serious conditions. A quick diagnosis or referral for specialist investigations is important as in most types of cancers the survival rates decline as the tumour grows and spreads.

A swift diagnosis often relies on the doctor considering cancer as a differential diagnosis at your first appointment.  That doctor would need to recognise that your symptoms could be more sinister and ordering tests to rule out other causes. If your GP doesn’t conduct the necessary examinations, order the necessary tests to start the diagnosis process, or link the cancer signs to the disease; a delay in cancer diagnosis can happen. As a result, misdiagnosed cancer can have serious complications, for instance, more drastic surgery being required to completely remove the tumour, radiotherapy that could have been avoided or longer courses of chemotherapy.

Cancer misdiagnosis can also occur in other ways too. For instance, if the necessary tests for an accurate diagnosis are read incorrectly, or if abnormalities in results are not followed up. These examples of how misdiagnosed cancer can occur are due to medical negligence and those affected may be able to make a misdiagnosis of cancer compensation claim.

Read less

Cancer survival rates vary hugely between different types of the disease and many factors impact a person’s likelihood of beating cancer, from the age of the person to how quickly the condition was diagnosed.

However, overall in the UK across all types of cancer around 50% of those affected by the disease outlive their diagnosis by more than 10 years. The cancer survival rate has doubled in the last 40 years alone and medical advancements are continuously being made to further improve the prognosis of cancer patients. Among the factors that have an impact on cancer survival statistics are:

The type of cancer you are diagnosed with

According to Cancer Research UK the survival rates for different cancers are huge, ranging from 98% for testicular cancer to just 1% for pancreatic cancer. Across the most common types of cancers in the UK, most have a ten-year survival rate of 50% or more.

While there are large variances in the types of cancer it’s important to note that typically the most common types of cancer have had more research and funding for treatments. As a result, more than 80% of patients that are diagnosed with cancer in the UK have a form of cancer that is easier to diagnose or treat with a greater chance of patients surviving their diagnosis by at least a decade.

The grade of cancer at diagnosis

If you’ve been diagnosed with any form of cancer it should then be graded, which may involve further testing. Grading the cancer means assessing how abnormal the cancerous cells are when compared to normal, healthy cells. The grade given gives medical professionals an indication of how the cells may behave and how aggressive the cancer is, although this acts as an indicator rather than an exact prediction.

Typically, cancer is graded 1, 2, or 3, with 1 indicating the cells in the tumour are similar to normal cells and growing slowly, while 3 suggests that the cancerous cells are very abnormal and are growing rapidly. Cancer that is graded lower is typically easier to treat and therefore survival rates tend to be higher.

Whether the cancer has spread to other parts of the body

If cancer has spread to other parts of the body it can make treatment more complex and in some cases a complete cure may not be possible. However, even where a cure isn’t possible treatment to control and relieve symptoms can be used and in some cases patients can live for years following an untreatable diagnosis.

After an initial diagnosis, cancer is staged. The stages indicate how large the tumour is and whether it has affected surrounding tissue or other parts of the body. There are several staging systems but a common one has 4 numbered stages. Stage 1 usually means that the cancer is relatively small and contained, while stage 4 means the cancer has spread beyond where it started, affecting other organs. Survival rates are higher when the cancer is diagnosed in the earliest stage.

The age of the patient at diagnosis

The age of the patient when they are diagnosed also has an impact on survival rates. In adults, the success of treatment tends to gradually fall as people get older.

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If cancer is left undiagnosed you may still be able to make a claim for compensation to reflect the medical negligence that occurred and the suffering it caused.

Those responsible for your care should take all reasonable steps to not only provide the treatment you need but an accurate diagnosis too. Even a shortly delay in cancer diagnosis, of six months or more can mean that the condition worsens as does your positive. Cancer that isn’t diagnosed at all goes untreated and will therefore continue to grow and spread to other parts of the body. As cancer worsens it can reach a point where it becomes untreatable.

The effect of undiagnosed and untreated cancer on the body will depend upon factors, such as the type of cancer that has developed and how aggressive the tumour is. If your cancer was not diagnosed until later stages, and it could have been treated earlier you may be able to make a compensation claim if you can prove that medical practitioners missed opportunities to make an earlier diagnosis.

If a family member has died as a result of a delay in diagnosing and treating cancer it is possible for their relatives or dependents to bring a claim for their death. Examples of these include:

  • A widow securing compensation after her husband was told cancer was not causing his symptoms after an inadequate examination. The fatal delay meant that the patient died 4 years later because the period where treatment could have been successful had passed by the time a diagnosis had been achieved.
  • A widower won thousands in compensation after his wife’s cancer was dismissed as ‘swimmer’s ear’ for two years. An investigation found that had the cancer been diagnosed sooner the patient would have had a 90% chance of surviving.
  • One widow’s husband died just eight months from cancer after being given the all clear by medical professionals. Following an operation shortly before the death, medics discovered three tumours that should have been detected a year earlier.
  • One woman’s cancer remained undiagnosed despite two opportunities and tests to detect cancer and meant that by the time a diagnosis was secure the tumour has become inoperable. The female was initially told that a lump growing in her breast was benign.
  • A female with a rare form of uterus cancer was not diagnosed until it was far too late to operate and treat the disease, despite making 58 visits to the doctors in just five months. Those responsible for her care failed to refer her to a specialist.
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According to Cancer Research UK figures for 2014, there were 356,860 new cases of cancer – or a diagnosis every 2 minutes. Cancer rates have increased by 12% in the last 20 years. While the figure has increased it can partly be attributed to improved processes identifying cancer, population growth, and people living to older ages – diagnosis of cancer is highest in people aged over 85.

However, it’s estimated that around 4 in 10 cancer diagnoses are preventable. Factors such as increasing obesity rates, drinking more alcohol, and other lifestyle choices are leading to cancer rates across the UK getting worse, indicating that changes to the average lifestyle could improve the cancer rate overall.

Despite the number of cancer cases in the UK rising, the good news is that earlier diagnosis, screening programmes, better tests and new treatments mean that more people are beating cancer than ever before. In fact, in the last ten years alone the death rates of cancer have fallen by almost 10%.

Medical pioneers are continuing to develop new tests and treatments, some of which are available for those diagnosed with the disease to try. It’s likely that in the coming years the number of people that die as a result of cancer will fall even further. Cancer Research UK’s ambition is for three-quarters of patients to survive their disease by 2034.

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Yes. If you suffered from cancer that wasn’t diagnosed until much later you may still be able to make a compensation claim.

You should be able to rely on medical professionals responsible for your care to take the necessary steps to diagnosis your condition.  If your GP or other healthcare professional have not listened to your symptoms and  missed opportunities to diagnose your cancer or misdiagnosed cancer as another condition, you may be able to make a claim if  your condition is worsen as a result or if you have  suffered additional pain. There is a time limit of 3 years within, which you must start your claim in Court.  The 3 years begin to run from the ‘date of knowledge’, usually when you cancer is diagnosed. While the time limit from the ‘date of knowledge’ gives those affected more time to put forward a claim it can sometimes be difficult to identify when this occurred. In complex cases, for instance those that contained multiple mistakes, it can still be a challenge to pinpoint when your time limit to claim cancer misdiagnosis compensation is. If you’re unsure we can help you. Our expert team will understand your situation and what the next step is.

Your GP/doctor, specialist or other clinician has a responsibility to:

  • Correctly interpret test results from a pap smear, image scan or biopsy (tissue sample)
  • Diagnose symptoms to ensure the right type of cancer is identified and
  • Put appropriate treatment immediately into action.

You may have a strong claim for clinical negligence if the standard of appropriate care fell below expectation due to:

  • Misinterpretation of scans, smear slides or biopsies
  • Failure to realise the importance of your complaints
  • Delayed referral for further tests
  • Missed, delayed or misdiagnosis of cancer type, stage or other complications
  • Lost or misplaced medical records.

Trying to come to terms with how a ‘standard’ clinical procedure failed is not always easy and finding out the reasons why this happened can sometimes be complicated.

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Cell samples taken from the inside of the cervix (the lower part of the womb) are smeared across a glass microscope slide to detect cancers, ‘pre-cancers’ (abnormal cell changes) and other conditions.  In older women, there may be insufficient cells for analysis, and so they may require a repeat smear test.

Forty years ago, half of all patients died within one year of diagnosis. Today, average life expectancy, based on the length of time from either the date of diagnosis or the start of treatment, is around six years. Nearly two in three of adult cervical cancer patients can now survive ten or years or more.

Advances in screening and the detection techniques of smear tests, scans and biopsies to detect cancer have significantly improved the interpretation of results, diagnoses and treatments. Their use by doctors to make an early and accurate diagnosis is crucial to extending life expectancy.

If the results of the test show any suspicious signs, such as inflammation, or are actually cancerous:

  • A repeat smear should be taken after several months, or
  • Your GP or doctor should arrange a referral to a specialist gynaecologist.
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While smear tests are the most effective method of diagnosing cervical cancer, false-negative reports may occur in up to 40% of all tests.

A ‘false negative’ is... where cervical cells that are actually or potentially abnormal or, cancerous are diagnosed as being normal, thereby causing a delay in the discovery of this disease and its treatment.

A ‘false positive’ is... where normal cervical cells are diagnosed as abnormal or cancerous.

As cervical cancers can take up to 10 – 12 years to develop, if abnormal cells are missed during one smear test, they will probably be found on a subsequent test.

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  • Every 3 years - between ages 21 and 29.
  • Every 5 years (with HPV test) - between ages 30 and 64.
    • If a pap smear result was abnormal, your doctor may advise you to have a HPV test to detect the presence of a virus, which can cause abnormal cervical cells, cervical cancer or genital warts.
  • You're aged 30 or older
  • More frequently - in special cases, e.g. previous chemotherapy or steroid use.

First developed in the 1970s, MRI (Magnetic Resonance Imaging) and CT (computer tomography) are body scanning technologies that, together with ultrasound scans and bone scans, are vital tools in patient diagnosis.

MRI scans – unlike CT scans, MRI scans can be taken from multiple angles to show the detailed definition of all body tissues, both normal and abnormal.

CT scans - provide a cross-section examination of layers of the body to more easily reveal abnormalities at a given depth within the body.

Ultrasound scans - used to determine the exact location of a tumour, for planning radiotherapy and as a guide for biopsies and pain reduction procedures.

Bone scans - involve injecting into the vein a radioactive dye that is absorbed in a greater quantity by an abnormal bone and shows up on the scan as highlighted areas.

The results of an image scan can only be properly acted upon if ‘read’ correctly by an experienced doctor or specialist. It is therefore vital that all scans are examined and reviewed by experts in their field who can correctly interpret the images and advise the patient as to the appropriate next steps and subsequent treatment.

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Biopsies can help differentiate between different types of cancer and are usually carried out when a conclusive diagnosis is needed.

Known as an incisional or core biopsy, a small sample of tissue is taken from the target area to be examined under a microscope.

Other types of biopsies:

Excisional biopsy - an entire lump or suspicious area is removed.

Needle aspiration biopsy - a sample of tissue or fluid is taken with a needle.

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More about us and our services

Mr Lapworth's story

2nd August 2017

In this story, we hear from Kenneth Lapworth who tragically lost his wife Elaine to cancer which developed after their local NHS Trust failed to arrange regular check-ups for her condition.

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