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Failure to diagnose skin cancer
& melanoma misdiagnosis

Failure to diagnose skin cancer & melanoma misdiagnosis

How much can you claim?

A 61-year old woman was left with significant scarring that could have been avoided if her skin cancer had not been missed. She was awarded:


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Claiming for skin cancer misdiagnosis

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

While rare, melanoma is an aggressive form of skin cancer that requires a prompt diagnosis and treatment in order to be managed successfully. Learning you have any form of cancer is a truly terrifying experience, but if you believe that there has been a misdiagnosis or a delay in diagnosis of melanoma, which caused a subsequent delay in starting your treatment, it is even more difficult to cope.

After experiencing medical negligence, patients can lose confidence in all doctors, feel very isolated and vulnerable, but this shouldn’t be the case. If you have experienced skin cancer misdagnosis, bringing a medical negligence claim can help you understand what went wrong and receive financial compensation to support your recovery. Here at Your Legal Friend we understand that compensation won’t undo the experience you have had to endure, but it can help cover future outgoings and support you and your family whilst you recover.

We have a team of specialist medical negligence solicitors who are experienced in supporting people in a similar situation to yours. With their skills and knowledge, they could help you receive compensation for melanoma misdiagnosis. They will work on you behalf to secure the best possible outcome. Throughout your case you will be represented by a specialist Medical Negligence Solicitor who will guide you through the process and support you as we investigate 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 skin cancer claim

If you want to make a medical compensation claim for a delay in diagnosing melanoma there is a time limit that you need to be aware of. You will need to bring a case in court  within 3 years from the ‘date of knowledge’. ‘Date of knowledge’ is usually the date upon which the melanoma was diagnosed, though it can be sooner.

‘Date of knowledge’ simply means the date that you realised there had been a mistake or that you had been misdiagnosed. Skin cancer claims, like all medical claims, need to be done within the specified time period. While you can make a claim at any point in these 3 years we recommend that you start it sooner rather than later. We know that after being diagnosed with melanoma or another form of skin cancer you’ll want to focus on your  recovery.  It is always best to instruct your solicitor as soon as you can  whilst your symptoms before your diagnosis are clear in your mind and the experience of your treatment and its impact on your family are fresh in your head.  The details of your experience  can fade.  Whilst  medical records should be retained by the Hospital for at least 6 years earlier request for records are better.. When you work with us we will do our best to ensure the whole process is as smooth as possible for you.

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.

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 and thank you very much

Mrs E. Swaffield

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

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, 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 skin 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 skin 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 skin cancer misdiagnosis 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 skin cancer misdiagnosis?

If you’ve been affected by skin cancer misdiagnosis it may be possible to make a claim. In order to be successful you will need to demonstrate that you have been let down by the healthcare system and did not receive the level of care that you were entitled to. Misdiagnosis of skin cancer, including skin cancer and melanoma, can have serious consequences for the patient’s treatment, as well as their mental wellbeing and financial state.

Skin cancer misdiagnosis claims can be based on many different factor, including:

  • Failure to diagnose signs and symptoms of skin cancer
  • Misdiagnosis or delayed diagnosis
  • Failure to refer a patient with suspected skin cancer quickly enough
  • The necessary tests not being ordered
  • Inaccurate reading of test results

How much compensation will I get?

Skin cancer compensation depends upon how you personally have been affected by the misdiagnosis and what you have personally lost in terms of earnings and financial costs. All medical claims are given a value based on each individual experience of the patient. As a result, it’s not possible to tell you how much you can expect to receive in missed skin cancer diagnosis compensation at the outset. Our expert team are on hand and will take the time to listen to you r experiences and to understand what you went through. Based on the information you give us we are then able to value your case, reflecting the undue suffering that medical negligence has caused you.

How long do I have to make a claim?

If you believe you have a case for missed skin cancer diagnosis compensation, you have 3 years from the ‘date of knowledge’. The ‘date of knowledge’ refers to when you first realised that a mistake had been made in your treatment and level of care. This is usually when you are diagnosed with melanoma or another form of skin cancer and for some patients this can be a long time after they first approached their GP with concerns and they could have even started their treatment at this point.

The time limits  around medical claims can be confusing. If you would like more information or to see if you are still within the timescale to make a  claim, we can help you. Our experienced team will be able to use their knowledge to help you pinpoint how long you have to make a claim.

While you do have 3 years to make a claim, we strongly recommend that you start the process as soon as possible. We appreciate that this can be a daunting prospect, but it can make gathering the evidence to investigate  your case much easier,  giving your compensation for delayed diagnosis claim the best possible chance of success.

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

What causes melanoma?

Melanoma has become one of the fastest growing types of cancer in the UK, with skin cancer rates now 4 times higher than they were in the 70’s. While this is partly down to improved awareness and early diagnosis, exposure to the sun and holidays to warmer climates are likely to have played a role, too. Like with other forms of skin cancer, ultraviolet (UV) light is the main factor for melanoma developing. UV light can come from the sun or artificial sources, such as tanning beds. Repeated sunburn can significantly increase the risk of cancer forming.

There are other melanoma causes too, including:

  • Moles – If you have a lot of moles, particularly if they are large or unusually shaped, you are at an increased risk of melanoma. According to the NHS, having just 1 mole that is large or unusually shaped increases your risk of melanoma by 60%.
  • Family history – If a close relative has had melanoma you are also more at risk. It’s estimated that around 10% of melanoma cases are linked to inherited genes.
  • Skin colour and freckles – Fair skinned people and those with lots of freckles are more likely to develop melanoma. Those that burn quickly in the sun are more at risk too.

What is skin cancer?

Skin cancer refers to all cancers that begin in skin cells. Skin cancer is often categorised into two divisions – melanoma and non-melanoma – and is one of the most common cancers in the world. When the term ‘skin cancer’ is used, it typically refers to a non-melanoma type. More than 100,000 new cases of non-melanoma skin cancer are diagnosed every year in the UK.

Non-melanoma skin cancer often develops slowly in the upper layers of the skin, the epidermis. It includes basal cell skin cancer, squamous cell skin cancer, which account for 75% and 20% of skin cancers respectively, and other rare types of the disease. Skin cancer often appears on the skin that is regularly exposed to the sun.

What causes skin cancer?

Most skin cancers are caused by ultraviolet (UV) light damaging the DNA of the skin cells, resulting in the cells becoming abnormal and cancerous. Those that spend a lot of time in the sun are more likely to develop skin cancer as damage to the skin can occur over time. Repeated sunburnt, either from natural sunlight or artificial sources, such as those used on tanning beds, also increases the risk. The damage UV light causes to the skin can sometimes take years to become cancerous.

Other causes of skin cancer include:

  • Family history – While skin cancer isn’t hereditary, research does suggest that some types of cancer do run in families and can increase the risk of the disease developing. 
  • Age – Skin cancer can develop at any age but it is more common in older generations.
  • Previous skin cancer – Previously having skin cancer can increase your risk of it developing again. According to Cancer Research UK previously having melanoma means your risk of getting non-melanoma skin cancer is around 3 times higher than average and around 10 times higher if you’ve previously had non-melanoma skin cancer.

The NHS also lists certain factors that could increase the risk of developing all types of skin cancer including:

  • Pale skin that does not tan easily
  • Red or blonde hair
  • Blue eyes
  • A large number of moles
  • A large number of freckles
  • Skin that has been damaged by radiotherapy
  • Medicines that suppress the immune system
  • Exposure to certain chemicals, such as creosote and arsenic.

What are the symptoms of melanoma skin cancer?

The first melanoma signs are often changes to the appearance of the skin. Changes can occur in moles, freckles or simply a patch of skin but it’s often changes to moles that patients notice. Normal moles are usually round or oval, with a smooth edge and no bigger than 6mm. Changes in the size, shape and colour, especially if it happens within a few months, can indicate melanoma. Moles that bleed, itch or are painful should also be looked at by a GP.

Signs and symptoms of melanoma can also be evident in freckles and patches of skin. Melanomas can appear anywhere on the body, but are most common on the legs, arms, face and back. In rare cases, it can develop in the eye and in this case melanoma symptoms are more likely to be picked up during a routine eye examination, although you may notice changes in your vision beforehand.

What are the symptoms of skin cancer?

Skin cancer signs of non-melanoma skin cancer do vary slightly, depending on the type of cancer you have. The cancer often appears as a lump or discoloured patch of skin that doesn’t heal and typically occurs on areas that are regularly exposed to the sun.

  • Basal cell carcinoma – A small red or pink lump that can also be scaly or waxy looking is one of the signs of skin cancer. The lump grows slowly and, in some cases, can bleed, become crusty or develop into an ulcer.
  • Squamous cell carcinoma – A firm pink lump that may be tender to touch, bleed easily, or develop into an ulcer could be the first sign of squamous cell carcinoma.
  • Bowen’s disease – This very early form of skin cancer’s main sign is a red, scaly patch of skin that sometimes itches. Bowen’s disease develops slowly and is easily treatable.

How is melanoma diagnosed?

Melanoma is a rare condition that is usually diagnosed with an examination of the area by a GP to begin with. If they have a reason to be concerned, the patient is being referred to a specialist. According to NHS own guidelines, in some cases this should happen as quickly as 2 weeks. A specialist will then examine the mole or abnormal skin allowing patients to get a diagnosis of melanoma. A biopsy may also be carried out, where part of the mole is removed and tested for cancerous cells.

Diagnosing melanoma may require additional tests, especially if medical professionals believe that it could have spread to other areas of the body. These tests could include:

  • Sentinel lymph node biopsy
  • CT scan
  • MRI scan
  • PET scan
  • Blood tests

How is skin cancer diagnosed?

If you notice any of the signs of skin cancer your first step should be to book an appointment with your GP. Your doctor will examine your skin and should they suspect skin cancer they will refer you to a specialist. Under NHS guidelines you may be referred as quickly as 2 weeks.

A specialist will be able to confirm a skin cancer diagnosis by carrying out a physical examination. They will usually support this diagnosis with a biopsy, where some of the skin cells are removed to be examined under a microscope to detect cancerous cells. During a biopsy, doctors will determine the type of skin cancer you have and the likelihood of it spreading.

Can melanoma be misdiagnosed?

It is possible for melanoma to be misdiagnosed. It’s a rare form of skin cancer and this means that many GPs will not see the signs regularly. As a result, they often need to refer patients to a specialist in order to obtain a diagnosis of melanoma. However, if a GP fails to make a referral, it can lead to melanoma misdiagnosis. As melanoma can be very aggressive and spread quickly, this can have a devastating impact on the treatment needed and its success.

Occasionally, even specialists in skin cancer will make a mistake when diagnosing melanoma, missing the signs or reading test results wrong, which can lead to melanoma misdiagnosis.

Can skin cancer be misdiagnosed?

The signs and symptoms of skin cancer can be interpreted as less serious skin conditions, such as eczema. Misdiagnosed skin cancer can be serious, especially if it's melanoma, as it means patients do not begin the treatment they need in order to fight the disease. Without diagnosis skin cancer can progress and spread to other parts of the body, making it more difficult to treat.

Skin cancer misdiagnosis can happen for many reasons, including:

  • A GP failing to recognise the symptoms or ruling it out due to risk factors
  • A failure to refer a patient to a specialist
  • A failure to order the necessary tests to obtain a skin cancer diagnosis
  • Test results being read incorrectly.
For a confidential chat, call one of our experts today  0808 301 8622    As seen on TV

How is melanoma treated?

The main treatment option for melanoma is surgery, but there are alternatives available and the exact treatment recommended will depend on each individual patient’s situation. Your care will be the responsibility of a team of experts who will work together to suggest the best treatment for melanoma in your case, considering the type of cancer you have and the stage of cancer, as well as your general health.

  • Surgery

Surgery is often used to treat melanoma and typically involves two operations, the first to remove the abnormal mole or skin and the second to remove healthy tissue that was around the area. If the cancer has spread, affecting the lymph nodes in the area, these may also be removed during the procedure.

  • Radiotherapy

Radiotherapy can be used as treatment of melanoma and it’s often done to complement surgery. It can also be used to relieve the symptoms of advanced melanoma.

Chemotherapy and biological therapy can also be used to treat the disease, but usually only if the cancer has reached the later stages and has begun to spread.

How is skin cancer treated?

Treatment for non-melanoma skin cancer is usually successful, with more than 90% of patients recovering from the disease following treatment. The main skin cancer treatment is surgery, but treatment is recommended on an individual basis, considering how the cancer has developed and the type of cancer you have.

Skin cancer treatment options include:

  • Surgical excision

Surgical excision treatment for skin cancer involves cutting out the cancer along with a margin of healthy tissue to ensure the cancerous cells are completely removed. It can leave scaring but when done in combination with a skin graft this can be minimised.

  • Curettage and electrocautery

This procedure can only be used for the treatment of skin cancer where the cancer is small. It’s similar to surgical excision but uses an electric needle to remove the skin around the cancer area.

  • Cryotherapy

Using freezing technology, it is possible to use cold treatment for skin cancer during the early stages of the disease, effectively freezing the cancer and causing that area of the skin to scab and eventually fall off.

  • Mohs micrographic surgery

If doctors feel that there is a high chance of the non-melanoma skin cancer spreading or if it’s an area where they want to remove as little skin as possible, Mohs micrographic surgery may be considered. It removes the tumour in smaller stages, reducing the risk of scarring and minimising the removal of healthy tissue while treating skin cancer by testing each bit of the tissue that has been removed.

In some cases chemotherapy, photodynamic therapy, imiquimod cream, radiotherapy or electrotherapy may be recommended as possible alternatives, such as when surgery is not an option or has been unsuccessful.

What are the different types of melanoma?

There are several different types of melanoma skin cancer that can have different signs and symptoms and spread at different rates. However, they are usually treated in the same way, with surgery to remove the cancerous cells. Melanoma doesn’t necessarily have to occur on the skin but it’s very rare for it to start in the body.

  • Superficial spreading melanoma

This is the most common type of melanoma. It has a very low risk of spreading to other areas of the body as it grows outwards, rather than downwards and as a result it doesn’t initially affect deeper layers of the skin.

  • Nodular melanoma

Nodular melanoma can spread quickly, if it isn’t diagnosed and treated straightaway. It’s often characterised by a raised area on the skin and is usually dark brown or black in colour. It’s often found on skin that’s only exposed to the sun occasionally and may not develop from a mole that was already there.

  • Lentigo maligna melanoma

More common on areas of the skin that are often exposed to the sun, like the face, lentigo maligna grows outwards in the surface layer of the skin, going deeper into the skin’s layers as it becomes cancerous.

Other types of melanoma do occur, but these are rare and include acral lantiginous melanoma and amelanotic melanoma.

What are the different types of skin cancer?

Skin cancer can come in different forms and is generall split into 3 main skin cancer types, including melanoma. The other 2 forms of skin cancer are basal cell carcinoma and squamous cell carcinoma, both of which are referred to as non-melanoma skin cancer. There are other skin cancer types but these are rare and combined account of less than 3% of skin cancer cases in the UK.

  • Basal cell carcinoma

Around three quarters of all skin cancer diagnoses are basal cell carcinoma. It’s a very treatable type of skin cancer because it grows slowly and doesn’t usually spread to other parts of the body.

  • Squamous cell carcinoma

Like basal cell carcinoma, squamous cell carcinoma doesn’t usually spread to other parts of the body and grows slowly. Again this means that it is typically fairly simple to treat.

What is the melanoma survival rate?

Skin cancer statistics show that around 90% of people diagnosed with melanoma will survive their disease for more than 10 years after diagnosis. However, how treatable the disease is depends on many factors, including the general health of the patient and the type of cancer they have.

How quickly a patient is diagnosed and begins treatment plays a significant role in the statistics. For instance, almost everyone will survive their cancer for 5 years or more, if it’s diagnosed at stage 1. But the figures fall as the cancer develops and spreads. If diagnosed at stage 3 around half of men and women will survive their disease for 5 years of more.

What is the skin cancer survival rate?

Non-melanoma skin cancer is very treatable and as it does not typically spread quickly, many diagnosed will be completely cured. Through treatment, including surgery, those with non-melanoma skin cancers are often expected to make a full recovery.