At one time, a diagnosis of cancer was considered a death sentence, but nowadays many cancers can be treated successfully, particularly if they are discovered in the early stages of the disease. On the whole, the earlier the diagnosis is made, the greater the chance of a successful outcome.
Unfortunately, this does not always happen, and errors made by medical professionals can result in the disease not being treated as early – or indeed not treated at all or treated incorrectly – as it should have been.
In our experience, late diagnosis or misdiagnosis of cancer can lead to awful results of patients and their families and often leads to considerably higher stress levels and a lack of trust in your medical team when a patient is at their most vulnerable.
Misdiagnosis is often widely reported in the press and in the past there have been some high-profile cases in which cancer has been missed or wrongly diagnosed. An incorrect diagnosis can result in psychological harm, as well as unnecessary and unpleasant treatment and/or surgery. Many of these cancer negligence claims have recovered considerable damages.
Reasons for Delays in Diagnosis
There can be a delay in diagnosis of cancer for all kinds of reasons. Some of the more common include:
- De-skilled or incompetent doctors
- Overworked doctors
- Overstretched laboratory staff
GPs who fail to recognise a particular cancer because they encounter it rarely
Common mistakes resulting in a delay in diagnosis are:
- Failure to monitor patients with a family history of cancer
- Failure to examine a patient
- Failure to investigate symptoms
- Not recognising signs and symptoms
- Ignoring, losing or misinterpreting test results
- Not referring to a specialist quickly enough