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Delayed or Missed Diagnosis of Cancer

View profile for Robert Dempsey
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For World Cancer Day, specialist Rob Dempsey answers your frequently asked questions regarding a missed diagnosis of cancer. 

What do the guidelines say regarding a missed diagnosis of cancer?

To establish negligence or breach of duty, it is necessary to show the medical team has not followed the standard approach expected of a responsible body of practitioners. It is often useful to turn to various guidelines to see what that standard approach should be. A well-publicised standard, for example, is for GPs to make an urgent two-week referral once there is a suspicion of cancer.

What do the medical records say and how important are they regarding a delayed cancer diagnosis?

Whilst importance is attached to what a potential claimant recollects by way of evidence, what is documented in the medical notes will often outweigh this. If there is no record of symptoms being brought to the attention of the medical team, it would be more difficult to argue earlier action should have been taken by them. This makes it all the more important specialist solicitors have the opportunity to consider the notes in detail to establish whether there is a claim.

What do the experts say?

The role of medico-legal experts is essential. The test for negligence is a legal one, yet input from the right medical experts who have been properly instructed by appropriately experienced solicitors is also required. As well as advising on breach of duty, a range of experts will be required to comment on “causation”, i.e. what is the effect of the breach in terms of suffering or loss of life. With this information, solicitors can, of course, not turn back the clock, but they can ensure the right level of compensation is secured.