Misdiagnosis of Bowel Cancer

41,000 people are diagnosed with bowel cancer every year. This makes it the fourth most common cancer. The good news is that more people survive than ever before. With early diagnosis 90% survive. The bad news is that, after lung cancer, it still causes more deaths than any other type of cancer.

Early diagnosis is the key. Delays can be devastating. They not only increase the risk of death but they may lead to more extensive treatment and unpleasant symptoms. For instance many people will need more major surgery and some will be left with a stoma. Although many people cope very well, having a stoma can be embarrassing, and make life very difficult. Some people find themselves struggling with work, daily activities and reluctant to go out.

It is therefore important to understand why delays happen.

Why Does Bowel Cancer Misdiagnosis Happen?

One common mistake is when GPs fail to follow the clear referral guidelines published by NICE. The guidelines say that any patient over 40 with bleeding from the rectum and a change in bowel habit for 6 weeks should be referred urgently to a specialist. Patients over 60 (who are at higher risk) should be referred if they have either bleeding from the rectum or a change in their bowel habit for 6 weeks (and not necessarily both). There are other occasions when a GP should make a referral – for example, if there is any unexplained lump in the rectum or unexplained anaemia (lack of iron in the blood).

In several sad cases patients were not referred by their GPs when they should have been. Their diagnosis was made late and by then their condition was advanced. It is therefore very important that GPs know and follow the guidelines.

Another common error is mistakes in carrying out investigations. One common investigation involves using a small camera attached to a tube to look at the inside of the bowel. This could be a colonoscopy or sigmoidoscopy. They are also often used to look at polyps. Polyps may themselves be harmless but can turn into cancer, sometimes taking 10 years to do so. It is important that investigations are done properly and that polyps are removed before they can become cancer.

Again in several cases the investigations were not done properly. In one case polyps were missed 5 years before they became cancerous. By the time the cancer was diagnosed the woman was seriously ill and she died some months later. Her family recovered over £200,000 in damages.

Want to Learn More About Cancer Misdiagnosis Claims?

People who find themselves not just being diagnosed with cancer but realising that there have been avoidable delays in their diagnosis deserve every sympathy. Where they have suffered harm because of the delay it is right that they should be able to bring claims for damages. Those claims require expert legal help.

Enable Law’s specialist lawyers understand the difficulties of living with cancer and can assist with complex claims arising from medical mistakes. Get in touch with our medical negligence solicitors today to learn more about cancer misdiagnosis claims.