Misdiagnosed with cancer, can I claim?

Everyone dreads receiving a cancer diagnosis for themselves or a loved one, as it has devastating consequences and can be completely life changing. According to Cancer Research UK, there are 375,000 new cancer diagnoses every year in the UK; that’s one person every two minutes. They also note that breast, prostate, lung, and bowel cancers account for 53% of new cases. That’s why receiving a correct diagnosis at the right time is vital, as it significantly increases survival rates through early intervention and care. However, the impact of Covid and a strained NHS has made this an increasing patient problem. A Cancer Research report has found that in 2022, over one million people in the UK are waiting for diagnostics tests and are facing record waiting times.

If you or a loved one has been the victim of a misdiagnosis or a delayed diagnosis, our team of specialist medical negligence solicitors at Waldrons can help you to make a claim.

What is a misdiagnosis?

Misdiagnosis and delayed diagnosis are a form of medical negligence which can ultimately lead to a delay in treatment, impacting a patient’s chances of remission and recovery whilst causing further suffering. In extreme cases, some patients have no treatment options beyond end-of-life care.

Misdiagnosis is when a medical professional fails to:

  • Correctly identify cancer following diagnostic tests resulting in an incorrect diagnosis.
  • Carry out diagnostic tests with specialists to investigate a patient’s symptoms.
  • Recognise possible symptoms and signs of cancer and refer them to specialists.
  • Correctly carry out diagnostic tests by using faulty lab equipment or through human error.

A delayed diagnosis is when a person with cancer is:

  • Not investigated or referred for investigation
  • Incorrectly diagnosed or not diagnosed at the time
  • Subjected to delays because medical professionals have not communicated a positive test result to the patient.
  • Subjects to delays because medical professionals have failed to act upon a test result and start treatment.

It is important to note that a delayed diagnosis can also result from the patient not recognising and seeking advice or if they’ve not turned up to screening or further investigations for cancer.

How common is a cancer misdiagnosis?

The Independent cites that four out of ten people with cancer are misdiagnosed in the UK annually.

Reportedly this is part of an upward trend, as cancer misdiagnosis and delayed diagnosis become increasingly common due to financial and staffing strains on the NHS, including underfunding, in addition to the continued impact of delayed screenings due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

Not-for-profit All. Can found that one in five UK patients surveyed said they waited more than six months for a correct diagnosis. A state of the nation report on cancer collated in 2019 by Cancer Research found that as many as 5% of patients saw their GP three or four times before referral and 8% five or more times, with the majority referred via emergency transfer resulting in 58% of these patients receiving a late stage diagnosis.

Can I make a cancer misdiagnosis claim?

Yes, if your cancer was missed or incorrectly diagnosed, you are within your rights to claim for the harm and impact it has had. You can claim for misdiagnosis if it meets these requirements:

  • The date of misdiagnosis was in the last three years
  • Another party with a duty of care was negligent

How much you can claim depends on the severity of the consequences and any financial losses or costs incurred. There are two parts to your claim:

  • General damages cover the suffering and loss of amenity (PSLA) you have suffered.
  • Special damages cover financial loss and expenses incurred from treatment and medical care.

Expenses you can claim for under special damages include:

  • Lost earnings (including future earnings)
  • Medical treatment
  • Physiotherapy
  • Travel costs
  • Care costs
  • Costs of adaptation for your home or care

Can I claim for delayed diagnosis?

Yes, a delayed diagnosis allows cancer more time to spread, significantly lowering your survival rate and causing further suffering and pain. You can make a compensation claim for delayed diagnosis if you meet these requirements:

  • It happened within the three-year limit.
  • The standard of care fell below that of a competent medical professional
  • You’ve suffered a physical or mental injury as the result of negligence

Like a cancer misdiagnosis, you can claim for general and special damages. The severity and consequences of financial losses or costs incurred also dictate the amount you claim.

What is the time limit for a claim?

For a cancer misdiagnosis or delayed diagnosis claim, there is a time limit of three years, usually from when the diagnosis of cancer was made.

Contact Waldrons

At Waldrons solicitors, we have an experienced team of medical negligence lawyers dedicated to securing the best outcome for your cancer negligence claim. Receiving the correct cancer diagnosis at the right time is the minimum of what we expect when we go to the doctor with symptoms. When that doesn’t happen, the results can devastate the patient, their friends, and their family.

If you think you have a claim, we offer a free initial telephone consultation service, followed by an in-person meeting if you have a case. Our lawyers are happy to meet you at home or in our offices to ensure the process is as stress-free as possible. Additionally, all clinical negligence claims are funded by a Conditional Fee Agreement, known as a No Win, No Fee agreement, meaning you don’t pay if we don’t secure compensation on your behalf. Contact us today to get started.

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Last reviewed on 11/07/23 by Joseph Norton who is an Associate Director and Head of Compensation