Case study: £1.7m for incorrect breast cancer treatment, resulting in secondary cancer

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Our specialist medical negligence solicitors recently helped a client claim compensation for incorrect breast cancer treatment that led to a lifelong need for medical treatment and the risk of further secondary cancer development.

Treatment for cancer in the left breast

Our client, Ms X, developed cancer in her left breast, which was resected in May 2014. Following the surgery, she underwent chemotherapy, radiotherapy and tamoxifen therapy, as well as Zoladex hormone injections to induce early menopause.

Secondary cancer diagnosis

In 2018, Ms X developed hip pain and an MRI scan in January 2019 confirmed that she had a solitary tumour in her right hip.

Following this diagnosis, it was explained to our client that her breast cancer in 2014 had been diagnosed as Herceptin (HER2) negative and treated accordingly. However, the biopsy of her hip metastasis in 2019 was diagnosed as HER2 positive.

Because secondary cancers are rarely different from the primary tumour, her medical records were re-examined.

Medical records reassessed

On re-examination of the samples taken in 2014, it was apparent that the initial sample result had been unclear as to whether her breast tumour was HER2 negative or positive, so it was sent back to the laboratory for further testing. The results confirmed that the cancer was in fact HER2 positive, which was not relayed to or noticed by Ms X’s oncologist.

Because of this negligence, Ms X received the wrong chemotherapeutic treatment and failed to receive the Herceptin therapy, which would have prevented the development of secondary cancer diagnosed in 2019.

Treatment for secondary cancer

As a result of the secondary cancer, Ms X underwent another course of chemotherapy and a course of stereotactic radiotherapy to her hip. As a result, Ms X requires Herceptin infusions for life, Zoladex injections for 10 years and anticoagulant therapy.

Additionally, the treatment resulted in hair loss, deep vein thrombosis in her PICC line, ongoing diarrhoea, nausea and headaches. Due to the stereotactic radiotherapy, our client suffers significant hip pain which affects her mobility and sleep. The pain has been treated with epidural anaesthesia, gabapentin, morphine and amitriptyline. She initially developed an Adjustment Disorder and thereafter a mixed anxiety and depressive disorder.

As a result, our client had to give up her full-time job because her symptoms and treatment were impacting her ability to work.

Claim for medical negligence

Ms X instructed us to help her claim compensation from the Defendant, the hospital, for the avoidable delayed cancer diagnosis.

In order to prove that our client was the subject of medical negligence, we instructed a Consultant Oncologist, who was supportive of her claim.

We served a Letter of Claim on the Defendant Trust on 6th December 2022, after which liability was admitted in full.

Determining a schedule of loss

In order to fairly value Ms X’s compensation claim, our medical negligence team investigated the full extent of loss experienced by our client, estimating her life expectancy, cost of medical treatment, loss of earnings and avoidable physical and psychological injury.

Under Ms X’s specific circumstances, it was agreed that it was not possible to give an accurate or definite estimate of her life expectancy, but her expert suggested that in two to three years, if she had not developed further disease, she would be cured. The Defendant disputed this, as it would mean our client’s damages would be greater.

The schedule of loss was set out in two different scenarios, one where Ms X did not develop any further secondary disease, and the other where she relapsed in five years. In the latter scenario, a claim under the Fatal Accidents Act was also included.

Interim damages payments of £35,000 and £100,000 were made on 13th May 2020 and 9th September 2021, respectively. It was planned to ask the court at the Costs and Case Management Conference for a two-to-three-year stay, together with a further interim payment for the majority of Ms X’s past losses.

It was eventually decided by Ms X’s Oncology expert that her life expectancy was in the region of 12 years and that waiting two to three years would not be helpful.

Settling the delayed diagnosis claim

The claim was issued, proceedings served and Judgement entered for Mrs X.

An attempt to settle the claim was made at a Joint Settlement Meeting (JSM) on 21st March 2022. Ms X’s final offer was for £1,750,000, but the Defendant’s maximum authority was for £1,000,000, so a settlement was not reached.

Various Part 36 offers followed and Mrs P eventually settled her claim for £1,725,000.00

Further information

If you or a loved one have suffered lasting health damage or loss due to a delayed cancer diagnosis, you may be able to claim compensation.

To speak to our expert Medical Negligence team, call us on 0117 253 0346 or fill out our online enquiry form.


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