Bowel Cancer and Medical Negligence

October 6, 2020
Joshua Hughes - Senior Associate and Head of the Complex Injury team

Posted by: Joshua Hughes


‘Bowel cancer’ is a general term, covering cancer of the large intestine (the colon) and of the rectum.  Of these, the more common is colon cancer and is in fact one of the most common types of cancer diagnosed for both men and women in the UK.  More frequently, it affects those over the age of 60.

Bowel cancer is very treatable.  However, as with many forms of cancer, early diagnosis can have a significant impact on treatment and prognosis.  In some circumstances, a delay in diagnosing or treating the condition can constitute medical negligence.

Symptoms of bowel cancer

Both the NHS.uk and bowelcanceruk.org websites hold lots of important information on what to look out for if you are concerned about symptoms.

Generally speaking, the main symptoms of bowel cancer will include:-

  • Persistent blood in your poo;
  • Persistent change in bowel habit (so perhaps the frequency or consistency of your poo)
  • Unexplained weight loss; and;
  • Persistent pain, bloating or discomfort in your abdomen/tummy

Diagnosis

If you present with symptoms, your GP has a large number of tests available to them that can pick up on this cancer, ranging from manually examining the abdomen or rectum to blood tests.  If they need further tests undertaken, they may refer you for radiography and MRIs, through to colonoscopies and biopsies.

Alternatively, bowel cancer may be diagnosed as part of the national screening process whereby those over the age of 60 are automatically invited to use a home testing kit every two years.  These tests can help find hidden blood in your stool or poo which might be a sign of cancer as well as identify polyps which can sometimes develop into something more sinister.

For more detailed information on screening, visit Bowel Cancer UK.

Treatment

With a bowel cancer diagnosis, your treating team of doctors will meet to discuss your case and work out how best to manage your treatment.  There are several treatment options but which one is suitable for you will depend on your particular circumstances including the stage and grade of cancer and your general health.

Common treatment options include (and may be used in combination):-

  • Surgery – where the cancerous part of the bowel is removed;
  • Radiotherapy – where radiation is used to combat cancer cells;
  • Chemotherapy – where medicine is used to combat cancer cells;
  • Clinical trials – where new medical research is trialled on patients

If the cancer has metastasised (which means it has spread from the primary tumour site to other parts of the body), then chemotherapy will be used in addition to, or instead of, surgery.  With advances in medicine, the success rates of chemotherapy are steadily improving.

Potential medical negligence claims involving bowel cancer

As stated above, early diagnosis and intervention can have an enormous impact on your prospects of a full recovery.  Occasionally, a delay in treating bowel cancer will mean that the cancer will be more advanced and the treatment options are likely to be more limited and/or more invasive.  In this sense, a failure to detect or manage bowel cancer from the earliest possible point can have very serious repercussions for those affected.

Where there has been an error in your treatment which has resulted in a delay of your bowel cancer diagnosis, our team of specialist clinical negligence solicitors can help determine whether you and those affected are entitled to compensation.  Whilst financial compensation can never fully remedy the damage caused by cancer, it can help support you and your family into the future, whatever it might hold.

It is important to understand that in order to recover compensation for errors made in your care, it must be demonstrated that the delay has negatively affected the outcome.  In basic terms, this will mean showing that had the delay been avoided, the cancer would not have progressed to a more advanced stage.  In most scenarios, shorter delays would not have made such a difference but where the delay is more significant and the cancer was left untreated or was treated incorrectly, the cancer may have spread elsewhere with serious consequences.

We have represented countless families affected by cancer bringing successful clinical negligence cases.

Bolt Burdon Kemp has many years of experience of acting for clients who have suffered as a result of cancer misdiagnosis and have specialist solicitors who act for cancer patients. If you or a family member suspect that there has been a delay in diagnosing or treating cancer, contact us online or call 0808 1596 075 for free expert advice from our dedicated team, with no obligation and on a confidential basis.

Acting only for Claimants, our medical negligence legal team is made up of carefully chosen specialists and is recommended by the definitive Legal 500 guide to the UK’s legal profession.

Joshua Hughes is a partner and Head of the Complex Injury team at Bolt Burdon Kemp.  If you or a loved one has been injured as a result of an accident or sub-standard medical treatment, contact Joshua free of charge and in confidence on 020 7288 4817 or at joshuahughes@boltburdonkemp.co.uk for specialist legal advice.  Alternatively, you can complete this form and one of the solicitors in the Complex Injury team will contact you.

Posted by: Joshua Hughes

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