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Cancer Misdiagnosis Medical Negligence Solicitors - Injury Compensation Claim

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Tens of thousands of people in the UK are diagnosed with cancer every year but for every one of those people fortunate enough to receive early diagnosis and treatment giving them the chance of recovery there are many more who are not so fortunate and suffer because of misdiagnosis or misinterpreted test results. Cancer misdiagnosis is extremely common and those whose illness worsens as a result of medical negligence have the right to claim compensation for personal injury including damages for loss of the chance of recovery.

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Negligent Misdiagnosis

There is no unavoidable reason why cancer should be misdiagnosed. The stakes are so high that there is simply no excuse for medical negligence. Human error does play a major part in medical negligence however lost records, misread tests, ignored complaints and failure to refer to a specialist are simply unacceptable excuses.

Early detection of cancer is important in giving the patient a better chance of recovery, improving quality of life and increasing survival rates after treatment. Unfortunately, many cancer sufferers discover they have the illness when it is well advanced often due to healthcare professionals missing the early warning signs. Cancer misdiagnosis is one of the most common types of Medical Negligence compensation claims in the UK.

Chemotherapy and radiotherapy are used to treat cancer and whilst many patients make a complete recovery, the toll taken on the body can be high. Early detection can reduce the severity of treatment and increase quality of life and survival rates. It is therefore essential that the cancer is picked up as soon as possible.

There can be many reasons why a patient is misdiagnosed as not having cancer or why there is a delay in diagnosis which worsens the disease. Common mistakes include not following up on the patient's genuine complaints, erroneous test results, misreading of test results or X-rays, lost records and not referring the patient to a specialist. These issues can indicate that there has been medical negligence that can ultimately lead to the cancer advancing thereby requiring more severe and uncomfortable treatment.

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Missed Opportunity for Treatment

The most common cancers involve the breasts, cervix, testicles, prostate, colon, stomach and lungs. The only effective treatments of cancer are radiotherapy, chemotherapy and surgery provided that they are started in the early stages of the disease. Negligent misdiagnosis however ensures that the victim does not get the chance to fight cancer properly as diagnosis is usually delayed until the illness has reached an advanced state at which point it is often untreatable. Whilst no one can predict the outcome if treatment had started earlier the courts take a pragmatic view and award damages for medical negligence based on the concept of missed opportunity for treatment whether or not that treatment would have been successful.

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Early Diagnosis Failure

The usual key to successful treatment is early diagnosis which may dramatically improve quality of life, survival chances and life expectancy and if a health care professional has failed through their negligence to diagnose the illness in a timely manner then a specialist cancer lawyer may be able to obtain a settlement for the worsening of the illness. Chemotherapy and radiation are designed to kill living cells and the pain and suffering and financial hardship caused as a result of these treatments can be horrendous. Early diagnosis may mean less pain and suffering, less financial hardship and a greater chance of survival. Many medical mistakes can lead to a delay in diagnosis which may deprive patients of the chance for a cure, or delay early treatment to minimise pain and discomfort and these include lost records, failing to realize the importance of a patient's complaints, treating a patient inappropriately, misreading x-rays, inaccurate test results or failing to refer a patient to a cancer specialist.

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Common Legal Action

Cancer medical negligence is not confined to any particular type of this condition and mis-diagnosis occurs across the full spectrum of the disease however the most common ailments that result in legal action include :-


Advances in medical knowledge have made treatment effective for those diagnosed at an early stage however delayed diagnosis often deprives patients of the cure that would often have been available if diagnosis had been made earlier.


Early treatment often cures this disease however it can go undetected or be mis-diagnosed for a long period thereby delaying the start of treatment. More legal claims relate to this condition than any other.


Detection of this disease often involves complicated scientific methods including radionuclide investigation, mediastinoscopy, CAT and MRI scans. There is substantial potential for error arising from these techniques.


Smear tests tend to be good indicators of pre-cancerous changes and this condition is often curable. Tests must be appropriately performed and interpreted correctly by specialists. Early detection tends to ensure high survival chances with rapid and appropriate treatment.


This is the most common cancer to be found in men with over 30,000 diagnoses per year. 10% of sufferers will die from the disease, however this carcinoma can be detected through PSE screening and recovery chances are good if detection occurs while the cancer is at an early stage.


Cancer of the colon is the second leading cause of carcinoma death in Britain however misdiagnosis can occur when medical practitioners fail to properly assess complaints of rectal bleeding.

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False Positive Diagnosis

One matter that often arises which frequently results in a cancer medical malpractice claim relates to the phenomena known as 'false positive diagnosis'. This occurs when a positive diagnosis of the condition is made due to technical error when in fact there is no disease present. In the initial stages the patient suffers psychologically in the mistaken belief that there may be a death sentence hanging over them and thereafter must endure unnecessary treatment that is often uncomfortable and distressing often with dangerous and damaging side effects that in themselves can be a threat to life and may shorten the victim's life expectancy. This scenario will almost always give grounds for making a claim for compensation based on negligence by the health care provider.

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Cancer Late Diagnosis

Cancer is a disease where a cell of the body develops the propensity to grow unrestricted. The cell divides over and over again and the resultant mass of cells can overrun the body area it began in and can travel to other places and grow metastatic lesions. Metastatic lesions can be numerous and are often untreatable with surgery alone. The goal of every cancer doctor is to detect cancer in its early stages and to prevent the problems associated with metastatic disease.

Common cancers are breast cancer, colon cancer, lung cancer, skin cancer and prostate cancer. All of these start with just one cell that changes its DNA in such a way that the ability to restrict its growth is blocked. Rapid growth ensues and a lump of some kind forms. In the case of colon cancer, the cancer cells often grow on polyps that subsequently grow into the wall of the colon.

Early signs of almost all cancers are fatigue, weight loss and pain in the affected area. In lung cancer, an early sign is a cough, sometimes productive of bloody sputum. In colon cancer, there can be blood in the stool and abdominal pain. Breast pain can be painful as well because there can be swelling of the breast. Prostate cancer can show up with difficulty in urination. Skin cancer usually shows a visible skin lesion that cannot otherwise be explained by a minor condition.

The early diagnosis of cancer is important because usually surgery and perhaps chemotherapy can cure the person of the cancer in many cases. This means that patients need to seek medical attention for the above symptoms or any other symptoms they cannot explain. In most cases, the doctor can identify the cancer and can provide the proper treatment but, if the doctor doesn't listen to the patient's complaints, a late diagnosis of cancer may be the end result.

If a cancer is diagnosed late in its course, there is usually significant weight loss and fatigue. There can be a blocked colon in colon cancer, difficulty breathing in lung cancer and a large mass in the breast in breast cancer. Urination can be completely blocked if prostate cancer isn't diagnosed until its later stages. In skin cancer, the skin can become ulcerated and can ulcerate into surrounding organs and tissues.

The biggest danger in late diagnosis of cancer is metastatic disease. Prostate cancer, for example, can be metastatic to bone and can cause severe bone pain in many areas of the body along with the signs and symptoms of severe local disease. Breast cancer is often metastatic to the other breast, the lungs, the liver and the brain. It is not easily treatable in this condition and people often die when the disease is metastatic.

Colon cancer is often metastatic to liver, other parts of the abdomen and the lungs. Metastatic colon cancer is difficult to treat and the death rate is high. This is partly why it is so important to have a colonoscopy at the age of 50 and every ten years after that.

Skin cancer, especially melanoma, can metastasise to almost anywhere in the body. Only about five percent of metastatic skin cancer patients who begin with malignant melanoma survive after about five years. An early diagnosis of skin cancer in this case, would be life saving because 90-95 percent of very early melanoma patients survive their disease.

Lung cancer can metastasise to many places, including the brain and the other lung. Metastatic non-small cell cancer has a 1 percent five year survival rate.

The finding of most cancers in their early stages makes the difference between survival and death from cancer. Doctors need to recognize early signs of cancer and use the modalities available to detect cancer in asymptomatic patients before the cancer becomes advanced and out of control.

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Specialist Medical Negligence Solicitors

If you discover cancer that has worsened as a result of delays by your doctor or through misdiagnosis you should discuss the possibility of a personal injury compensation claim with a specialist medical negligence solicitor. Time limits do apply and failure to comply with the limitation legislation may mean that the opportunity to claim compensation is lost forever. To preserve your legal right to receive compensation you should act now without delay.

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