Waldrons recover compensation for client following delayed diagnosis of breast cancer after routine breast screening failure

Friday 3rd March 2023

The medical negligence team were successful in recovering damages for a lady who suffered a delay in diagnosis of breast cancer as a result of a failure to correctly interpret an NHS screening mammogram which could have identified breast cancer two years before it was diagnosed.   

What happened?

In November 2015 our client attended a routine mammogram appointment at City Hospital in Birmingham. The mammogram reported no abnormality, our client was therefore advised that she could simply attend a further routine screening in due course.

However, the mammogram in fact revealed an abnormality which should have been followed up with further investigations and would have led to an earlier diagnosis of breast cancer.

Our client was sadly unaware of this until she presented to her GP in March 2017 with a lump in her left breast. She underwent investigations under the two week wait pathway and was diagnosed with breast cancer in March 2017. Our client underwent a wide local excision and sentinel node biopsy in May 2017.

Our client then had to undergo radiotherapy and, following this, was placed on specialist medication, initially Anastrozole and later Letrozole.  

Thankfully, our client made a full recovery and was recently given the all clear in relation to her breast cancer.

However, in November 2019, as part of a NHS internal review, the error was discovered in relation to the 2015 mammogram. At a meeting with our client in November 2019, our client was sadly informed that her left breast cancer had been missed by the mammogram reporters in November 2015. Our client was understandably upset and angry about what had happened and sought advice about what she could do in light of this.

How Waldrons are able to help

Adam Smith, from our medical negligence team, was instructed by our client to look into matters and extensive investigations were carried out. This included obtaining expert witness evidence from a Consultant Breast Surgeon.

It was confirmed that there was a breach of duty on behalf of the Clinician reviewing the mammogram in 2015 and that the abnormality should have been spotted at that point.

Further, our expert was able to confirm that, had the tumour been found at that time, it would have been significantly smaller and, although our client would still have needed an operation, this would have been much smaller with much less scarring and less removal of breast tissue. Our client would also have avoided the significant stress and anxiety that was caused by the knowledge of such a long delay in a very serious illness.

An interesting side effect of the failure to spot the cancer at an early stage was that our client was also suffering with arthritis in her knee and, at the time of her diagnosis, was due to undergo a knee replacement operation. As a direct result of the failure to diagnose her promptly in 2015, our client had to postpone her knee operation to prioritise, quite understandably, her breast cancer care. This resulted in her suffering an extended period of pain and suffering with her knee that she would otherwise have avoided.  

After obtaining supportive expert evidence, we presented our case to the Defendant and attempted to negotiate a settlement with the Defendant. Although the Defendant admitted that there was a breach of duty in failing to accurately report the mammogram, they refused to accept liability, on the basis that they stated that our client’s outcome would not have been any different if she had been diagnosed with breast cancer at an earlier stage.

Accordingly, we therefore advised our client to issue Court proceedings and, during those proceedings, the Defendant agreed to settle her claim and so a successful settlement was reached shortly after Court proceedings were issued.