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Home > Personal Injury > Medical Negligence > Misdiagnosis > Bowel cancer misdiagnosis compensation claims

Bowel cancer misdiagnosis compensation claims

Delayed or misdiagnosed bowel cancer compensation

Clear Answers' lawyers have been successful in getting compensation in delayed referrals for those suffering from bowel cancer. The question the courts will ask is what difference that delay made in the outcome. Sadly it sometimes makes the difference between life and death.

We can give you access to experts who will give an opinion as to what difference that delay has made to the chances of a cure and lawyers who will explain the impact that has on any claim in light of recent important House of Lords decisions in this area of law, such as the case of Gregg v Scott.

Please select one of the links below for more information on bowel cancer and how Clear Answers' specialist lawyers may be able to help you bring a claim for compensation.

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Bowel cancer deaths and diagnosis

Around 35,000 people are diagnosed each year with bowel cancer but early detection can mean that many of those people are treated in time to achieve a complete recovery, or at least before the cancer spreads so far that a catastrophic outcome cannot be avoided.

Bowel cancer accounts for 10% of all deaths in the UK and is the second most common cause of death in the UK.

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Causes of bowel cancer

Bowel cancer is caused by cells in the lining of the bowel mutating and becoming abnormal, growing uncontrollably. These changes mean that often malignant (cancerous) tumours develop from small, benign (non-cancerous) growths of tissue. These are called polyps and can extend from the lining of the bowel wall.

If untreated, the cancer can grow through the wall of the bowel, spreading to other parts of the body.

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Risk factors for developing bowel cancer

Whilst bowel cancer can develop in anyone, there are some people who have an increased likelihood of developing bowel cancer. These risk factors include:

As medical evidence suggests these factors are high indicators of the risk of bowel cancer, the NHS now provides screening for all people aged between 60-69 years of age. It also recommends that screening is done very two years.

Statistically, the 5-year survival rate for bowel cancer is 90%, provided that it is detected at its earliest stage, when a complete cure is still possible. It is therefore critical for a good outcome that early detection is made and any delay in diagnosis can be very serious, sadly in some cases it can prove terminal.

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Symptoms of bowel cancer and diagnosis

If your GP suspects that you may be suffering from bowel cancer, he will take a history of your symptoms and ask about any risk factors such as those mentioned above, including family history. He should also ask about diet, which helps to build a complete picture.

Many of the symptoms below, which might indicate bowel cancer, can often be attributed to other conditions. If your GP suspects that you might be suffering from bowel cancer, he should start the investigations by carrying out blood and stool sample testing, possibly a digital rectal examination which will check for any lumps or mass inside the rectum.

It is very important that the doctor takes a very detailed history of your symptoms and makes a meticulous note of them, the duration of the symptoms and their extent and severity.

Symptoms might include:

Unfortunately, many of these symptoms can be caused by irritable bowel syndrome, which is a very common diagnosis.

If the suspicion of bowel cancer is further confirmed following all these investigations, an immediate referral should be made to a Gastroenterologist within two weeks at the latest.

Gastroenterologists routinely perform colonoscopies and have specific training in all endoscopic procedures. They are also trained to recognize the endoscopic appearance of the various colonic diseases and can make important diagnostic and therapeutic decisions based on these findings.

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Confirming the presence of cancer in the bowel or rectum

There are two methods of confirming the presence of cancer in the bowel or rectum.

Firstly, a colonoscopy or sigmoidoscopy may be performed by inserting a thin, flexible tube that is attached to a small camera into the rectum. This is used to view the rectum and / or whole bowel and even remove small samples of tissue for a biopsy.

A second method of confirming the presence of bowel cancer is a barium enema examination. This is a detailed x-ray of the bowel.

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Case studies of delayed or misdiagnosis of bowel cancer

Case study 1

One of our clients in an ongoing case, a 63-year-old woman, visited her GP when she suffered rectal bleeding associated with bowel movement changes and anaemia for a period of eight months. No action was taken to investigate her symptoms, despite her having regularly sought medical advice.

This client had unfortunately formed the opinion that she was suffering from piles, and when she mentioned this to the GP, he simply accepted this explanation, despite no previous reference to piles in her notes.

A diagnosis of piles is a common mistake, but the GP should have checked whether the patient’s self-diagnosis was correct.

Shortly after her visits to the GP, due to her age, our client received a bowel cancer screening kit in the post. She duly completed the test, sent it off and waited for the results. Unfortunately, these were abnormal and she was referred for a colonoscopy, which not only confirmed the presence of bowel cancer, but that it has spread to other parts of her body.

Case study 2

We succeeded in obtaining compensation for another client, who had visited his GP with symptoms indicative of bowel cancer. In this case, our client was referred for a barium enema x-ray.

Unfortunately, on inspection of the results, there was a failure to identify the presence of the cancer by the clinician.

It was a further six months before the cancer was correctly diagnosed.

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Circumstances for making a claim for compensation

In order to make a successful claim for compensation, it is necessary not only to prove that you have suffered a delay or misdiagnosis of bowel cancer, but also that the delay or misdiagnosis has resulted from a sub-standard level of care provided by one of the medical professionals dealing with your treatment.

There are several stages, and several medical professionals against whom you may have a valid claim.

Errors by your GP

The GP for example, may have failed to take notice of your symptoms, attributing your condition to another cause. He may also have failed to perform examinations that would have led to a correct diagnosis, or failed to act sufficiently quickly before the disease spread to other parts of your body.

Errors by clinical staff

Once you are referred for tests, the tests may not be carried out correctly, or the results may be incorrectly interpreted by the clinical staff. Any of these situations may lead to an incorrect diagnosis, or at least a delay in the diagnosis that leads to your disease reaching an untreatable stage.

Adverse outcome caused by the delay in diagnosis

Having proven that a delay or misdiagnosis has occurred, it is also necessary to show that the delay caused an adverse outcome. This typically means that the delay has to be of sufficient length to affect the outcome.

An Oncologist can map the stage the cancer would have reached at the time it should have been diagnosed and compare this with the stage at the time of diagnosis. He will then be able to look at the statistics for a cure and compare these at each stage and determine whether your outcome has been adversely affected by the delay, or whether the same outcome would have resulted even had their been no delay in diagnosis.

Medical evidence suggests that the delay has to be in the region of 7 or 8 months in order to prove that the cancer has developed to the next stage.

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The progression of bowel cancer

The stages of bowel cancer are graded as Dukes, A, B, C or D. The purpose of this grading is to assess the extent of the disease and the outcome that is likely for the patient. By reviewing the progression of the disease in this way, it is possible to see whether the delay has affected the outcome, and whether a claim for compensation would be successful.

Each stage has a greater physical effect, leading to damage to other organs, for example the bladder. If the tumour has pushed out of the bowel and put pressure on the bladder, it is reasonable that the delayed diagnosis has allowed that progression, and a compensation claim would be successful.

In such circumstances, the compensation would include having to undergo more extensive surgery to remove the tumour and the bladder damage. It is likely that this level of surgery would result in permanent incontinence and the use of a catheter for the remainder of the patient’s life, clearly a major impact on their quality of life.

If the delay has allowed the cancer to progress further, and has affected the chances of cure and survival, any compensation claim will of course take this into account and reflect the loss of the patient to the family.

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Compensation claims news stories

Clear Answers' lawyers deal with very many successful cases of personal injury claims. We have teams of experts with a wealth of experience in your type of accident or injury, waiting to help you claim your rightful compensation.

Please visit our regularly updated Personal Injury News Section to view some examples of our successful personal injury accident compensation claims, and related news items which we hope will be of interest.

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Making a compensation claim for misdiagnosis of bowel cancer

Have you or a member of your family suffered as a result of medical negligence? For more information about our service or for advice about whether we can assist you with a medical negligence compensation claim contact us today on 0800 783 9019 or complete one of our online compensation claim forms. One of our representatives will contact you as soon as possible (without obligation) to discuss the matter further .

Strict time limits apply for making a personal injury compensation claim, so please seek expert legal advice as soon as you think you may have a valid claim for compensation.

Please visit our section on information and advice for more details on making a personal injury compensation claim.

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