Cancer negligence claims solicitors

With appropriate medical care, many cancers can now be effectively treated and survival rates can be excellent. Even in cases where there is no prospect of a cure, modern treatment has progressed so that for many, symptoms can be held at bay, and quality of life improved. Of course, this all depends on early detection and national screening programmes are in place for some cancers (breast, cervical and bowel) to help with this.

For the most part, the standard of cancer care in the UK is excellent. However for a small minority of patients, things can go badly wrong, perhaps because their GP failed to refer them to a specialist, crucial investigations were not undertaken, or test results were misreported resulting in misdiagnosis.

At Boyes Turner we are highly experienced in pursuing cancer negligence claims, having acted in a large number of cases, for both adults and children.

Judgment for young mother diagnosed with avoidable cervical cancer

Judgment has been entered for a young mother, Emma* who developed  cervical cancer...

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Hospital admission of liability for a young woman who developed cervical cancer

Boyes Turner’s specialist medical negligence lawyers have secured an admission of liability...

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£575,000 compensation settlement following a delay in diagnosis of cervical cancer

Boyes Turner’s medical negligence solicitors have settled a compensation claim for their...

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£800,000 compensation settlement recovered following a delay in diagnosis of cervical cancer

Our client, a young woman, developed symptoms, including vaginal bleeding. She attended her GP...

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Types of cancer negligence claims

No two cancer claims are ever the same. We have acted in cancer negligence claims against both GPs and hospitals, and in some cases there are multiple defendants, perhaps because the GP has delayed referral, and then the hospital has failed to undertake crucial tests or has misreported the results.

There are over 200 different types of cancer, some more common than others and we have experience in acting for clients with numerous different forms of the disease, including breast cancerbowel cancercervical cancerspinal cancer, prostate cancer and sarcomas.

Sarcomas are a rare form of cancer that develops in the bones or soft tissues of the body, and commonly affect teenage children and young adults.  It often occurs in the long bones of the body, the ribs, pelvis and spinal column.

Regardless of the type of cancer involved, if you have concerns about how your diagnosis or treatment has been managed, then we can offer you advice as to whether or not there might be a claim to pursue.

GP referral

GPs should be alert to signs and symptoms of possible cancer. There are many different types of cancer, each of which may be associated with a wide range of symptoms which can make it difficult for a GP to know when they should refer their patient to a hospital specialist. To help, the National Institute of Health & Clinical Excellence (NICE) has published a series of referral guidelines, categorised according to the type of suspected cancer. The guidelines help doctors work out which patients they should refer and how quickly.

In cancer negligence cases it is often at this stage that things can go wrong. If a referral is not made when it should be, there may be a delay in diagnosis, during which time the cancer progresses, symptoms may worsen, and the long term prognosis may change. A GP may well be considered negligent if they have failed to follow a clear referral guideline, or even if they have followed a guideline but have failed to take into account other factors which ought to have resulted in a referral.

Hospital investigations

Once a referral has been made, the hospital specialist, usually an Oncologist, will decide what investigations are required to make the diagnosis. They too are guided by NICE guidelines. For instance, in cases of suspected breast cancer, a triple test is usually used which involves clinical examination and assessment, imaging (i.e. mammogram / ultrasound) and tissue examination following a biopsy. In cases of suspected bowel cancer, a sigmoidoscopy or colonoscopy are likely to be required. It is important that the correct investigations are selected and the results reported accurately.

Diagnosis of cancer

Once the test results are available, the hospital specialist will be able to confirm whether or not the patient has cancer. If they do, the results will also allow the doctor to confirm what stage the disease is at.

Unfortunately cancer diagnosis mistakes are sometimes made, particularly when test results are misreported, for example when scan results are not reviewed thoroughly enough, or biopsy results are not recorded properly. This may result in patients being told that they do not have cancer, when in fact they do. Alternatively, it can result in patients receiving treatment for a cancer which they do not have.

Cancer treatment

Staging is important because it helps to determine what type of cancer treatment is required. If the staging is incorrect, it can lead to the wrong treatment.

If the cancer is just in one organ it may be possible to provide a local treatment, such as radiotherapy which targets a certain place in the body, or indeed surgery. However, if the cancer has spread further, a whole body treatment may be needed such as chemotherapy. Sometimes more than one type of treatment is used, for instance, chemotherapy following surgery. Treatments are developing all the time with new techniques being trialled (such as HIFU for prostate and other cancers).

On occasions, mistakes are made in the treatment of cancer. Cancer treatments are by their nature, very powerful, and if used incorrectly, can cause injury. For example we have acted for clients who have suffered extravasation injuries from chemotherapy treatment procedures 

Cancer negligence FAQs

Q. What is cancer?

A. Cells in the body usually grow and reproduce in a predictable and controlled way. However, this orderly system can sometimes go wrong. This may result in cell death, but can also result in uncontrolled growth resulting in tumours . However, not all cancers cause solid tumours, for instance in leukaemia, abnormal blood cells are created by the bone marrow and then circulate in the blood stream.

Q. How many different types of cancer are there?

A. There are over 200 different types of cancer. Cancer can develop in any type of cell of the body and it is important for doctors to work out which type of cell is involved. Types of cancer include:

Some types of cancer are also named after the size and shape of the cells such as giant cell carcinoma, spindle cell carcinoma and small cell carcinoma.

Q. What is the difference between a malignant and benign tumour?

A. Benign tumours are not cancerous, therefore they do not spread to other parts of the body. They are often slower growing than malignant tumours and their cells are more similar to normal cells. A benign tumour often grows within a capsule or within normal cells. Malignant tumours do contain cancer cells, can spread to other parts of the body and often grow faster.

Q. What is Metastatic cancer?

A. Metastatic cancer means that cancer cells from the primary cancer have spread to another part of the body. This happens when cancer cells break away from the main tumour and are carried in the body to another site.

Q. What are the stages of cancer?

A. Stage 1 usually means that the cancer is small and has not spread beyond the organ it developed in, whereas by stage 4, the cancer will have spread to another organ in the body. This is often referred to as secondary cancer or metastatic cancer.

There are also other staging systems including the TNM staging system.

Q. What symptoms does cancer cause?

A. Symptoms vary from cancer to cancer and person to person. Patients tend to become symptomatic when a tumour has grown sufficiently to press on other organs or nerves. Symptoms may also develop if the tumour is releasing chemicals or hormones into the blood stream.

Q. How fast do tumours grow? When did the cancer begin?

A. Different cancers grow at different rates, depending on the precise type of cancer. Tumour growth rates can be quite important when investigating a claim for compensation and fortunately medical experts are able to estimate how big the tumour would have been at the point in time when it should have been diagnosed.

Q. Can I bring a claim for cancer negligence?

A. To be successful with a cancer claim we need to establish:

  1. There was negligent treatment and;
  2. The negligence made your condition worse or resulted in you suffering an injury

We can also potentially pursue a claim when someone has died as a result of negligent cancer care.

The law provides that certain individuals can bring a claim on behalf of the estate of the person who has died (for the deceased’s avoidable pain and suffering prior to their death and for other miscellaneous expenses incurred by the estate and relating to the negligence).

It may also be possible for an individual to bring a claim in their own right if they were dependant on the deceased, either financially or in terms of the services they provided (for example, the care a parent provides to their child or the assistance that a spouse usually provides with tasks such as DIY and gardening).

Cancer negligence definitions

The medical language associated with cancer can be complicated and difficult to understand. We have identified some of the key terms in use every day in relation to cancer.

B

Benign tumour

A benign tumour is a tumour which is not cancerous.

Biopsy

A biopsy is the removal of tissue from the body which is then examined to reveal the presence, cause and extent of disease.

Blastoma

Blastoma is a type of cancer derived from immature cells. Blastomas are more common in children than in adults.

Bowel cancer

Bowel cancer is a form of cancer which begins in the large or small bowel. Also known as rectal or colon cancer.

Breast cancer

Breast cancer is a type of cancer originating in breast tissue. We have a great deal of experience in dealing with cases where there has either been a delay in diagnosis, or where treatment of the condition has resulted in injury.

C

Cancer

Cancer is a disease caused by the uncontrolled growth of abnormal cells in a part of the body.

Carcinoma

Carcinoma is a type of cancer derived from epithelial cells which line the cavities and surfaces of structures in the body. Many of the most common forms of cancer are carcinomas, for instance breast, prostate, lung, pancreas and colon.

Chemotherapy

Chemotherapy is a term used to describe the use of drugs to treat cancer. Chemotherapy works by destroying cancer cells or by preventing them from multiplying. Chemotherapy drugs may also have an effect on normal, non-cancerous tissue. 

Cervical cancer

Cervical cancer is when cancerous cells occurring within the cervix. We are experienced in dealing with cases where there has been a delay in diagnosis of this condition.

Claim

A medical negligence claim for compensation can be brought if you or a loved one has suffered negligent cancer care which has resulted in a poorer outcome, or additional pain and suffering. Click here to find out if you can claim.

Colonoscopy

A colonoscopy is an examination involving a flexible fibre-optic instrument which is inserted through the anus in order to examine the colon.

E

Extravasation injury

An extravasation injury  is when chemotherapy drugs have been infused into the body incorrectly causing damage to surrounding tissue. 

G

Germ cell tumours

Germ cell tumours are cancers that most often arise in the testicle or ovary.

L

Leukaemia and lymphoma

Leukaemia and lymphoma  are cancers that develop from blood-forming cells which develop in the lymph nodes (lymphoma) and blood (leukaemia).

M

Malignant tumours

Malignant tumours are tumours that contain cancerous cells and tend to spread and invade healthy tissues and organs in the body.

Mammogram

A mammogram is a procedure conducted to obtain an image of breast tissue.

Metastatic cancer

Metastatic cancerrefers to the spread of cancer cells from the primary cancer site.

Misdiagnosis

Misdiagnosis is when an incorrect diagnosis is made.

N

NICE

NICE is an acronym for the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence. NICE sets guidelines for medical practitioners to follow when managing cancer care.

O

Oncologist

An oncologist is a doctor who studies and treats cancer.

P

Primary cancer

A primary cancer is the site at which cancer first develops.

Prostate cancer

Prostate cancer is a cancer occurring in the prostate, a gland in the male reproductive system. 

R

Radiotherapy

Radiotherapy refers to the treatment of cancer and non-cancerous tumours by x-ray or other forms of radiation.

S

Sarcoma

Sarcoma is a type of cancer which develops in connective tissue such as bone, cartilage, fat and nerves.

Screening

Screening describes the tests used to detect cancer after it has developed but before symptoms become apparent.

In the UK there are national screening programmes for breast, bowel and cervical cancer. To screen breast cancer, mammograms are used. For bowel cancer stool samples are analysed and to detect cervical cancer, smear tests are used.

Secondary cancer

Secondary cancer is when a tumour develops as a result of spread from another primary site.

Sigmoidoscopy

A sigmoidoscopy is a procedure to examine the sigmoid colon using a flexible tube inserted through the anus.

Spinal cancer

Spinal cancer is a cancer occurring either in the spinal cord or in the vertebrae (bones in the spine). The most common primary cancers to spread to the vertebrae include lung, breast, lymphoma and prostate cancer.

Staging

Staging is a classification system to describe the extent to which the cancer has spread.

Symptomatic

A patient is described as symptomatic when they develop symptoms.

T

TNM staging system

The TNM staging system is a system used by doctors to determine the extent of the cancer.

  • T relates to the size of the cancer (1= small, 4 = large).
  • N describes whether the cancer has spread to the lymph nodes (0 = cancer has spread, 1= cancer hasn’t spread).
  • M refers to whether the cancer has spread to another organ (0 = cancer has spread, 1 = cancer hasn’t spread).

The TNM system is sometimes refined further still (for example, to subdivide each category, so stage 3a, 3b and 3c), and sometimes specific cancers have their own grading systems such as Dukes’ staging for bowel cancer.

Tumour

Tumour is a term usually used to refer to an abnormal mass of tissue which forms when cells reproduce at an abnormal rate. Tumours can be cancerous (malignant) or noncancerous (benign).

U

Ultrasound

An ultrasound is a type of scan using high frequency sound waves. 

I am overwhelmed by the outcome in terms of the monetary value and know I should consider it as a near a 'sorry' as I am likely to get from the hospital. It will be nice to start the process of closure on the whole issue now and look towards the future for us as a family. 

Mrs T, Surrey 

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