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Cancer misdiagnosis claims &
undiagnosed cancer compensation

Cancer misdiagnosis claims & undiagnosed cancer compensation

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A 40 year old woman who suffered a 10 month delay in diagnosis of breast cancer required a mastectomy and breast reconstruction. She was awarded:


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Claiming for cancer negligence

Medical negligence, whilst uncommon, can have a big impact on your life and wellbeing.

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.

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.

For a confidential chat, call one of our experts today  0808 301 8622    As seen on TV

The time limit on making a cancer negligence claim

If you believe that you have a cancer malpractice compensation claim and you would like to take it forward, there is a three-year time limit that you should be aware of.

While you do have three years to bring the case to court, we recommend that those affected by cancer misdiagnosis, or any other form of medical negligence, start the process as soon as possible.  This has a number of benefits for both you and your case. It takes time to investigate your case and to get expert evidence to support it, the sooner that you start the process the quicker it can be concluded, giving you the answers that you’ve been looking for and access to financial compensation that can take money worries off your mind.

In terms of supporting your case, starting sooner can make it simpler to gather evidence that will back your claims and the compensation amount. This evidence often includes documents that are easier to obtain closer to the time they happened. Supporting documents may include medical records, diagnostic test results, scans and  reports. You and others will also be asked to provide witness statements and details will be clearer the sooner they are given too.

It’s important to note that the timeframe for making a medical claim doesn’t start when you first visit your doctor with concerns but from the ‘date of knowledge’. This term refers to the point when you were first  diagnosed . In some cases, identifying the starting point of the timeframe can be a challenge but with our support we can help you understand how long you have to make a claim.

If you do not claim within the set time period, your claim will be considered ‘statute barred’ or ‘out of time’ and will unfortunately not be taken further. There are two exceptions to this rule, in the case of children and if the negligence directly led to a fatality. In these cases suing the NHS for negligence is still possible as the date on which time begins to run is the date of the child’s 18th birthday, and in the case of fatalities, from the date of death.

If you would like help in pinpointing the ‘date of knowledge’ in your case or have any other questions about misdiagnosis of cancer compensation, Your Legal Friend is on hand to offer guidance and advice.

Throughout your claim, Your Legal Friend will help you every step of the way

  • Specialist team of cancer negligence solicitors
  • A wealth of knowledge and expertise
  • Advice, support and guidance throughout your claim
  • No win, no fee – guaranteed
  • Over 30 years’ experience in personal injury compensation
I am very happy and satisfied with the settlement you achieved for me and the service was excellent. Thank you very much.

Mrs E. Swaffield

Our cancer negligence experience

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

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 cancer negligence cases.

You can read one of our clients' stories here. We helped Mr Williams get the answers he deserved and receive the maximum possible compensation after a breach of duty led to his wife's death from lung cancer.

If you’d like advice as to whether you might be able to pursue a cancer negligence claim, either call our freephone number or submit your details through the form on this page and we’ll be in touch to schedule a phone call at a time that’s convenient for you. If you decide that you’d like to start a claim, one of our medical malpractice lawyers will be able to tell you whether you can enter into a No Win, No Fee agreement*, meaning that in the event that your claim is unsuccessful, and you have co-operated fully with us throughout, you won’t have to pay any legal costs so there’s no financial risk to you.

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

*Our No Win, No Fee agreement

Pay nothing if you lose your case, get maximum compensation if you win

Whatever the nature of your cancer negligence claim, we always seek the maximum level of compensation for our clients – and if your case is unsuccessful, we don’t charge you any fees. This is our guarantee for all standard cancer negligence claims.

With our no win, no fee guarantee, you pay nothing, unless you win your compensation claim. At that point you will only pay your insurance premium, if applicable, and the success fee, which will never be more than 25% of the amount you win.

No Win, No Fee Solicitors

Start your claim in 10 minutes

For a FREE, confidential, no-obligation assessment of your claim, simply complete this short form. We aim to call you back within 10 minutes.

For a confidential chat, call one of our experts today  0808 301 8622    As seen on TV

The cancer negligence claims process

Step 1 - Obtaining your medical records

We ask you to sign forms of authority so that we can obtain your medical records from your GP and any hospitals that have treated you. 

Step 2 - Providing your statement of what happened

As the medical experts we instruct need to know what happened during your treatment, we work with you to draft a detailed, accurate statement in your own words. 

Step 3 - Minimising your loss

You are responsible for minimising the losses you have incurred as a result of the alleged medical negligence, so you need to attend any available treatments that could aid your recovery.  You may also need to return to work as soon as it’s safe to do so.

Step 4 - Establishing that a breach of duty occurred

You must prove that the treatment you received fell below the standard expected of a reasonably competent and skilful medical specialist of the type who treated you and that, as a result, you suffered a loss or injury.  To do this, we obtain independent medical evidence from an expert in the appropriate area of medicine.

Step 5 - Establishing the effect of the breach of duty

We have to establish whether the sub-standard treatment you received is likely to have led to your injury or loss.  As this can be difficult to establish, you may need to see one or more medical experts who will assess your current condition and what the future holds for you.

Step 6 - Calculating the value of your claim

The value of your claim comprises:

  • general damages for the pain, suffering and impact of the negligence on your daily life both now and in the future
  • actual financial losses such as loss of earnings, cost of care, medical and travel expenses.

Step 7 - Proving your loss

You need to keep all original financial documents safe as these will be needed when we prepare your case to go to Court.  These documents include accounts, payslips, and receipts for expenses and medical treatments.

Step 8 - Preparing your case for Court

Although only a small number of cases proceed to a trial, we prepare every case for this eventuality.

Step 9 - Attending the trial in Court

The trial takes place before a Circuit or High Court judge who will make a decision based on the evidence we have prepared.

Step 10 - Awarding your compensation claim

If you win your case, the amount of compensation will be decided by negotiation with the defendant or, if your case goes to trial, by the judge.  The defendant will usually be ordered to pay us the costs we have incurred in preparing your case.  We will also agree a date by which your compensation will be paid to us so that we can pay your compensation as quickly as possible.

Frequently asked questions

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.

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.

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.

For a confidential chat, call one of our experts today  0808 301 8622    As seen on TV

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.

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.

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.

For a confidential chat, call one of our experts today  0808 301 8622    As seen on TV

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.

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.

UK cancer statistics

Statistics for cancer across the UK can indicate how common cancer is and how likely developing the disease or surviving it is. But it’s important to remember that there are many factors contributing to cancer and it’s impossible to know whether someone will develop the disease.

  • In 2014, there were around 357,000 new cases of cancer in the UK – the equivalent of 980 new diagnoses every day.
  • In 2014 there were 163,444 deaths in the UK that were linked to cancer.
  • In the UK more than 1 in 2 people will develop cancer at some point in their life.
  • Breast, prostate, lung, and bowel cancers are the most common, accounting for over half of cases across the country.
  • More than half of cancer diagnoses occur in people aged 70 and over.
  • In the UK, cancer incidences have increased by 12% in the last 20 years.
  • Around half of patients in the UK that are diagnosed with cancer will survive their disease for 10 years or more.
  • In the last 40 years the cancer survival rate in the UK has more than doubled thanks to treatment advancements and the ability to diagnose at earlier stages.
  • More than 80% of people in the UK are diagnosed with a type of cancer that is categorised as easier to diagnose or treat.
  • The survival rate for cancers varies hugely. More than 98% of those with testicular cancer will outlive their diagnosis by at least a decade, while just 1% of those with pancreatic cancer do so.
  • It’s estimated that 4 in 10 cases of cancer are preventable – smoking is the biggest preventable cause of cancer.
  • Inherited faulty genes cause just 2-3% of cancers.

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.