Breast cancer can now be caught at a much earlier stage than in the past giving the individual a better chance of survival although we have seen issues such as with screening and treatment often leading to breast cancer negligence claims. It is worth noting that when screening does not necessarily identify breast cancer at an early stage, or surgery is not as successful as hoped, this does not necessarily give grounds for a case of negligence. All instances of potential negligence regarding the treatment of breast cancer will be considered on a case-by-case basis.
Any patient who feels they have received medical treatment for breast cancer below the expected level may well be able to claim compensation for negligence against the local NHS trust, private hospital or GP.
Most Common Types Of Breast Cancer Claims
While there are many different reasons why people pursue compensation for negligent treatment of breast cancer, they tend to fall into two specific categories:
- Breast cancer misdiagnosis or a delay in diagnosing breast cancer. Time is most certainly of the essence where breast cancer is concerned and a failure (or delay) to refer a patient for further investigation after breast cancer symptoms arise can cause major complications further down the line.
- Surgical negligence. A failure to carry out the appropriate investigative tests or basic errors during surgery could potentially lead to a significant breast cancer compensation claim.
As we touched on above, there have been great improvements in the treatment and diagnosis of breast cancer over the years. However, the skill of GPs and surgeons to spot cases of breast cancer as early as possible, and administer the relevant treatment, still plays a major role in the overall process.
How Do You Define Breast Cancer Misdiagnosis?
Thankfully there are very specific guidelines drawn together by the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) which offer an informative reference point for GPs, surgeons and those considering a personal injury claim involving breast cancer. It is fair to say that there is an overlap between potential breast cancer symptoms and other medical conditions which can sometimes make it difficult for the medical profession. However, some of the more basic guidelines for immediate referral to a specialist breast cancer team include:
- The emergence of hard, discrete and immovable lumps on or around the breast.
- A discrete lump which emerges after menopause on a regular basis or persists throughout the menstrual cycle. This is a specific referral guideline for patients over 30 years of age.
- Patients under the age of 30 where there is history of breast cancer or they discover a lump which seems to follow the general characteristics of a potentially cancerous mass.
- Instances of nipple discharge or changes to the colour or texture of the nipples.
- If eczema occurs on one breast this can sometimes be a sign of breast cancer and medical opinion should be sought as soon as possible.
Even though there are growing instances of breast cancer amongst women under 50 years of age it is well documented that the chances of developing breast cancer increase for those over 50. The condition can also be brought on by some hormonal changes as well as exposure to radiation. Even though we have seen a number of major breakthroughs with regards to the diagnosis and treatment of breast cancer, the best treatment is still an early diagnosis.
Your local GP is not only expected to take into account recent changes to a patient’s body, and lumps discovered around the breast, but also the medical history of the patient’s family. There is a lot of pressure and a lot to think about before making a referral for further tests for breast cancer although the NICE guidelines are helpful for all concerned. Failure to follow these guidelines, or take action considered inappropriate for an experienced medical professional, can lead to a “breach of duty” ruling. Any breach of duty to the patient can result in a compensation claim and while the majority are settled out of court, some do go through the courts.
Common Breast Cancer Surgical Errors
All medical professionals are deemed to have an appropriate degree of skill which will allow them to diagnose, classify, assess and treat any potential cases of breast cancer as soon as possible. Failure to act to this degree of expectation can lead to medical negligence claims which may include:
- Failure to make full use of mammograms, ultrasound scans and biopsies to clarify the existence of breast cancer.
- Simple but potentially very costly mistakes when interpreting scans/ pathology samples and failing to take the necessary action.
- Failure to remove a sufficient level of cancerous cells during surgery which can often leave a patient potentially exposed to a second bout of cancer. The deemed “sufficient level” will be dictated by the specific characteristics of the cancer.
- Negligent administration of chemotherapy drugs and other treatments often used to destroy the last cancerous cells.
- Choosing a less effective type of surgery where a medical professional would have been expected to choose a different route offering a potentially better outcome for the patient.
There are many other ways in which medical professionals can be found negligent and potentially libel in relation to breast cancer claims. As we touched on above, there will be situations where surgery does not provide the expected results but as long as the medical professional acted with due care and attention this does not necessarily mean grounds for a breast cancer negligence claim.
Do You Have A Claim For Breast Cancer Negligence Compensation?
As the number of people diagnosed with breast cancer continues to rise we are starting to see more instances of negligence and liability. The NICE guidelines offer a very useful and informative base from which to compare your specific treatment for breast cancer. However, in order to have a valid claim you must be able to prove that:
- The standard of medical care provided fell below the NICE guidelines resulting in potential negligence.
- The claimant suffered undue injury or illness as a consequence of incorrect actions taken by medical professionals treating their breast cancer.
Unlike the vast majority of personal injury cases, the circumstances surrounding the diagnosis and treatment of breast cancer are not always black and white. As we mentioned above, not all unsuccessful treatments will result in a ruling of negligence and liability. Indeed there may be circumstances where a delay in diagnosis (or early misdiagnosis) had no material impact upon the initial development of the breast cancer and there were opportunities further down the line to administer treatment.
There will be more obvious cases where tests were not carried out or there was misdiagnosis resulting in the patient’s breast cancer worsening considerably before the appropriate action was taken. Thankfully, both the NHS and the private medical sector in the UK employ medical professionals trained to exceptional levels of expertise. Instances of simple breast cancer negligence regarding testing and misdiagnosis are thankfully few and far between but unfortunately they do occur.
Medical Negligence Solicitors
As a result of detailed patient records an experienced medical negligence solicitor will be able to advise you as to whether you have a strong breast cancer compensation claim. Many medical negligence solicitors work on a No Win No Fee basis which effectively means no upfront costs for the claimant with solicitor fees collected from any compensation award on a predetermined basis. For many people who face the challenges of breast cancer, pursuing a compensation claim may be the last thing on their mind. However, it is only by exposing failures in the system that others can be afforded greater protection going forward. There is also the issue of loss of earnings, additional medical treatment required because of negligence not to mention the physical and mental strain which would be calculated for in a breast cancer claim.