Case study: missed breast cancer diagnosis
With one in eight women in the UK likely to develop breast cancer within their lifetime, recognising the signs and symptoms is crucial in accessing treatment quickly. As the most common type of cancer, one person will be diagnosed every 10 minutes.
We’re specialists in investigating cancer negligence claims and have seen first-hand the consequences of cancer misdiagnosis and delayed cancer diagnosis on patients and their families.
This case, conducted by medical negligence solicitor Claire Hurrell, demonstrates the importance of early cancer diagnosis – even in younger women.
GP failure to diagnose breast tumour
We acted on behalf of a client and, latterly, her mother as executor of her estate. Our client stated that she visited her GP and complained of a breast lump over the course of several months.
An examination was carried out and costochondritis was diagnosed and later confirmed. A few years later, breast cancer was finally diagnosed and a mastectomy performed. Despite treatment, sadly our client suffered a recurrence and died aged 31.
We obtained independent expert evidence from a GP expert, a breast surgeon and a histopathologist to obtain answers to the questions our client had about her care.
Our evidence investigated the care our client received and the impact this had upon her condition. Our GP expert felt that our client was not examined properly and that the care provided to her fell so far below the acceptable standard as to be negligent. Our evidence indicated that if our client had been diagnosed and treated at an earlier date she would have survived.
We put allegations of negligence to our client’s GP and it was accepted that if she complained of a breast lump, she should have had a full examination resulting in referral and investigation, which would have saved her life.
However, the GP defendant’s clinical notes didn’t record a complaint of a lump and he denied liability for her death, arguing that our client complained instead of pain in her chest wall and that she did in fact also suffer from costochondritis at the time.
The dispute as to whether our client had or had not complained of a breast lump made the claim particularly challenging because, sadly, by the time a trial was listed our client had passed away.
Whilst she had provided a witness statement before her death, she had visited the GP defendant alone and it was therefore difficult to disprove his version of events, given that his records supported his claim, and he was able to give his evidence in court supported by his clinical notes.
Following service of our witness statements and expert evidence, we achieved a substantial out of court settlement for the mother of our late client without the need to attend trial.
To speak to a specialist medical negligence solicitor about a missed breast lump or any other form of cancer misdiagnosis, call us on 0117 325 2929 or contact us via our online form.