Advising with empathy and experience

Settlement following failure to diagnose secondary cancer.

The CNCI team recently helped the family of a cancer victim receive compensation for the unnecessary pain and suffering caused by a delayed diagnosis. The claimant brought a claim on behalf of his deceased wife, Mrs S, who sadly passed away in 2008.

Mrs S was diagnosed with breast cancer in September 1998 and had surgery to remove her lymph nodes a short time later. She received a course of radiotherapy and she thought the cancer had been eliminated.

Around 6 months later she began experiencing pain in her lower back. A scan showed that she had osteoporosis so she was prescribed an anti-inflammatory medication to manage this condition. Between 2000 and 2007 she visited her GP on numerous occasions. Each time she went she was told there was nothing to be concerned about and no investigations were ever performed to investigate the source of her pain.

She continued to suffer with the pain for 7 years, she managed as best she could, but it had a significant impact on her life, as well as her family. She remained her son’s full time carer at the time as he had been diagosed with Asperger’s syndrome. Through remarkable strength of will she was able to continue to care for him, despite the pain.

However in June 2007 the pain became much worse. It was so extreme she was unable to move. A visit to York Hospital A&E department revealed that she had cancer in her spine, ribs, liver and skull. The hospital told her that these cancers were inoperable. Her original cancer had metastasized to her spine and eventually other areas.

Expert evidence obtained in the case confirmed that this is a well documented occurrence and that GPs should have considered this possibility given the symptoms displayed by Mrs S. Medical evidence also showed that she should have been given further investigations on 14 separate occasions before her eventual diagnosis.

The evidence noted that an earlier diagnosis would not have affected her prognosis or life expectancy. However the pain she was experiencing could have been better managed and the onset of neurological deterioration could have been avoided if she had been referred to a specialist earlier.

Richard Wood, head of the CNCI team said “I’m glad we were able to help in this matter. It was important to us that the pain and suffering Mrs S experienced was compensated fairly. In this case the doctor’s failings didn’t affect the overall prognosis, but the pain towards the end of her life was not managed as well as it could have been.”