Medical Mistake Claims - Simpson Millar LLP

Delays In Diagnosing Cancer

Author: Neil Fearn  Bullet  Dated: 4/2/2015

Today is World Cancer Day, it may come as some surprise that The British Journal of Cancer states that the UK has poorer cancer outcomes than many other western countries. Differences in the stage of diagnosis are largely responsible, however, this is also due to late presentation and onward referral.

The delay in diagnosis or treatment can occur at any point in the cancer journey and can be divided into: pre-symptomatic delays, patient delays, primary care delays, referral delays, and secondary care delays. A case in East Kilbride recently highlighted this, finding serious failings in one patient's care.

Whilst a small element of delay is inevitable in the diagnosis of cancer, it is likely that in a significant percentage of patients there is considerable preventable delay often with catastrophic consequences. It has been claimed that earlier diagnosis of people with cancer could save between 5,000 and 10,000 lives each year.

What We Need To Prove

The most important question is not just whether there was a delay in diagnosing or treating cancer (breach of duty) but has the delay in diagnosis or treatment affected the likelihood of survival (causation).

What was the stage of the cancer at the time of diagnosis and what would have been the stage of the cancer when it should have been diagnosed?

Once we have this information we can then assess the impact that the delay in a cancer diagnosis or treatment has had upon the 5 year survival rate.

If it can be established that the care provided was of a poor standard and that but for the negligence the patient would have had a more than 51% chance of survival then a claim would, on balance, succeed. If, however, the patient would have died even with prompt and proper treatment, then the claim will fail.

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