Prostate Cancer – was my doctor negligent?

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Prostate Cancer is the most common cancer suffered by men. 1 in every 8 men get prostate cancer, and the risks increase depending on your ethnicity, so that 1 in 4 black men are affected.  Your risk also increases if family members have had the disease.  It is easily missed, especially by GPs.  The good news is that once detected it is very easily treated, and it is usually a slow burn cancer which takes years to develop. As with all cancers there are some aggressive forms of the disease, but this is relatively rare.

The symptoms of prostate cancer are often similar to other, non-cancerous, conditions such as a urinary tract infection, or prostatitis, which is an inflammation of the prostate gland.   These conditions are common in elderly men.

As GPs are the first to investigate any complaint of urinary symptoms and make referrals to urology if necessary, this is where we find most negligence cases arising.

This is not to say that Urologists don’t get it wrong either. For example, in one of our cases it was the Urologist who failed to action the relevant test which meant the prostate cancer was missed until it was too late for beneficial treatment. The earlier the diagnosis, the more likely that the treatment you receive will have curative intent. If you miss the curative intent window, the cancer can metastasise and the treatment then is only to contain the spread, as happened in the case we are dealing with.

The NICE Guidelines give some useful information about when someone should be referred with suspected prostate cancer. They recommend that a PSA (prostate-specific antigen) test, i.e. a blood test, should be performed as well as a digital rectal examination which is designed to feel whether the prostate feels normal or is perhaps enlarged, when someone presents with any lower urinary tract symptoms such as going to the toilet at night, needing to go more often, struggling to pee, feeling an urgent need to pee, or not emptying the bladder completely, which is known as urinary retention.

These tests should also be performed for anyone complaining of erectile dysfunction or visible blood in the urine. If the digital rectal examination indicates the prostate does not feel normal, or the PSA levels are above the age-specific reference range, then a referral to a urologist should be made for them to be seen within 2 weeks. Higher levels of PSA can indicate a problem with the prostate.

It should be noted that just because a PSA test indicates high levels this does not necessarily mean you have cancer. PSA levels can be affected by a number of things, indication any medication you may be taking. Therefore, if you are prescribed medication for your urinary symptoms your GP should consider whether to take do a PSA test before you start taking it, and then do another test some weeks later to compare.  Other things which can affect the result include sexual activity or vigorous exercise around the time of the test or having a urine infection – it is best to wait until the infection has cleared before having the test.

If you or a close family member have been diagnosed with Prostate Cancer and feel that it should have been investigated and diagnosed at an earlier stage, get in touch with our specialist team who can advise you.

We have a dedicated phone line 0800 044 8488 as well as a dedicated email address: contact@enablelaw.com.  We are here to help you through this difficult time.

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