Delays in diagnosis of lung cancer - Why bring a claim? | Bolt Burdon Kemp Delays in diagnosis of lung cancer - Why bring a claim? | Bolt Burdon Kemp

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Delays in diagnosis of lung cancer – Why bring a claim?

Around 42,000 people are diagnosed with lung cancer in the UK every year and 35,000 people die from lung cancer in the UK annually.

If lung cancer is diagnosed early, treatment may not only be more effective, but the chance of cure and survival rates will improve. A late diagnosis or misdiagnosis can have serious consequences. In many cases, patients may be considered unsuitable for surgery and the cancer may have spread to other parts of the body.

What is Lung Cancer?

Lung cancer is the uncontrolled growth of abnormal cells, originating in one or both lungs; usually in the cells that line the air passages. The abnormal cells divide rapidly and form tumours.

Types of Lung Cancer:

Lung cancer can either be primary or secondary lung cancer. Primary cancer is when the cancer begins in the lungs, secondary lung cancer is when cancer begins in another part of the body and spreads to the lungs.

The treatment that is recommended for lung cancer depends on the type of lung cancer as well as a number of other factors.

Symptoms of lung cancer

There are usually no signs or symptoms of lung cancer in the early stages, but once the disease develops, common symptoms include:

  • Voice change
  • A persistent cough
  • Coughing up blood
  • Persistent breathlessness
  • Unexplained weight loss and tiredness
  • An ache or pain when breathing or coughing

Unfortunately, only 15% of lung cancer cases are found in the early stages, before the cancer has spread. However, prompt attention to symptoms, leading to early diagnosis and treatment, can cure some patients, for others prompt attention to symptoms can help them live longer and have better control of their symptoms.

Treatment options for lung cancer patients

The type of treatment for patients depends on several factors such as the type of lung cancer, the size of cancer, the stage of cancer and the patients’ overall health. Unfortunately, the
majority of lung cancer patients are diagnosed with advanced disease (stage IIIb/IV). For those patients, current treatment options include surgery, chemotherapy and radiotherapy or a combination of such treatments.

Unfortunately, the current treatment options may not result in a cure for some patients, although even in those circumstances, treatment can help to manage symptoms.

Late diagnosis or misdiagnosis of lung cancer

In my experience of claims for compensation relating to a delayed diagnosis or misdiagnosis of cancer, common issues include:

  • Failure to investigate symptoms
  • Failure to carry out appropriate tests, or incorrect reporting or interpretation of test results
  • Failure to refer to a specialist when a patient reports symptoms

A delay in diagnosis can lead to catastrophic consequences. Recognition of the symptoms and early detection will dramatically improve the chances of survival.

National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) Guidelines

NICE guidelines provide recommendations for good practice in the diagnosis and treatment of lung cancer.

The guidelines stress the importance of early diagnosis and the need to raise awareness of the symptoms and signs which are characteristic of lung cancer.

How can compensation help?

For individuals who have become seriously ill with cancer and have a medical negligence claim, compensation may be very important for their quality of life. Where relevant, compensation can be claimed for losses and expenses incurred as a result of the negligent treatment, which may include:-

  • The cost of private medical treatment, which may include innovative treatment not normally funded by the NHS.
  • Compensation for loss of earnings where a claimant is unable to work because of negligent treatment.
  • Care and assistance, such as paying for carers to visit the claimant at home.
  • Aids and equipment to assist claimants; such as wheelchairs.
  • Adaptations to the home, such as installation of a wet room and wheelchair ramps.
  • Pay for counselling where claimants have suffered a psychiatric injury because of the consequences of a delay in treatment.

If the Defendant admits liability for the claim at any stage, then where appropriate we can request an interim payment of compensation to help with the above.

Sadly, in some cases, a delay in treatment might mean that the cancer is not treatable. In those cases, if claimants have children or other family members who are dependent on them, then a claim can help to provide for them in the future.

Josh Hughes is an Associate solicitor and the Head of the  Complex Injury team at Bolt Burdon Kemp specialising in Medical Negligence claims. If you or a loved one are concerned about the treatment you have received, contact me free of charge and in confidence on 020 7288 4817 or at for specialist legal advice. Alternatively, you can complete this form and one of the solicitors in the Medical Negligence team will contact you. You can find out more about the Medical Negligence team.

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