Delays in diagnosing cancer

 A cancer patient survey has shown that 1/4 of patients needed to visit their GP at least three times before being referred to a cancer specialist. The survey also identified that cancer patients who were female, young or from an ethnic minority had a longer wait to be referred to a specialist.

It has been reported that 7.4% of breast cancer patients, 10.1% of melanoma patients, 41.3% of pancreatic cancer patients and 50.6% of multiple myeloma patients visited their GP three or more times before they were referred.

The difficulty is that cancers such as multiple myeloma and pancreatic cancer often display symptoms such as pain, fatigue and weight loss which could also be attributed to many other non-cancerous conditions. This means that it may take numerous consultations before the GP becomes worried enough to refer the patient for further investigation.

But these difficulties should not apply to cancers such as breast cancer and melanoma which often present with very particular symptoms, many of which can be observed by patient themselves. For example, a breast lump or changes in the size or colour of a mole.

Delays in referral to a specialist can result in delays of diagnosis and treatment and may mean that the cancer is more advanced by the time it is diagnosed. The patient may then need more radical surgery and/or chemotherapy or radiotherapy, which may not have been required with an earlier diagnosis. Patients may also have a poorer prognosis as a consequence of delays in receiving treatment.

Boyes Turner’s medical negligence solicitor, Sita Vaghela, comments:

“A diagnosis of cancer is always upsetting for the patient as well as their family, but it can be even more distressing if there has been a delay in diagnosis of the diseaseWhere a patient has been diagnosed with cancer, especially breast cancer or melanoma, and they had presented to the GP on different occasions complaining of breast changes or changes in a mole, serious consideration should be given to whether there had been a negligent delay by the GP in referring the patient for further investigation.”

The service was personal, professional and considered. I was treated so kindly and in the end I knew that not only had I found the right organisation but also the right person.

Boyes Turner client

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