Medical Negligence

Doctor dismissed bleeding symptoms on five occasions causing year-long delay in diagnosing cancer

doctor with male patient

Helena Wood

Associate and Chartered Legal Executive

4 min read time

A father who was given treatments for piles for more than a year by his GP was eventually diagnosed as having rectal cancer after seeking a second opinion.

The 48-year-old was seen by his GP on five occasions over a 13-month period, in which time his condition worsened with increased bleeding and pain when he went to the toilet.

Despite this, he was never physically examined by his doctor, nor referred to specialists for further investigation.

It was only when his wife convinced him to seek a second opinion and pay privately that he underwent a colonoscopy, which identified the tumour.

Despite a course of chemotherapy, the cancer then spread to his lungs, leading to his death aged just 53.

Legal action taken against GP

The man’s widow launched legal action against the GP, and in a case led by Hudgell Solicitors it was alleged the failure to carry out a physical examination, or to refer to hospital, had been a breach of duty of care.

Recalling her husband first having symptoms, she said it was continually dismissed by the GP on five occasions over 13 months.

“He went a number of times and was told he may have piles and was given the same remedy, which was peppermint oil and creams. He couldn’t understand why he had been diagnosed with piles as this was not something he had ever suffered with,” she said.

“It felt as though we were fighting a losing battle in trying to establish what was wrong and we were both concerned about his ongoing symptoms. I arranged a private consultation for him. On the day of his colonoscopy he told me they had found a tumour within a few seconds of starting the procedure.”

Legal case alleged patient may have enjoyed normal life with early diagnosis and treatment

As part of the legal case, Hudgell Solicitors gathered independent oncology and pathology evidence which indicated that, but for the delay in diagnosis, the patient would likely have been cured of his cancer and had a normal life expectancy.

Although this was contested by legal representatives of the GP, they agreed a £140,000 damages settlement out of court.

Helena Wood, of Hudgell Solicitors’ medical negligence team, led the case and said it was an example of ‘red flag symptoms of cancer being disregarded by a GP’.

She said: “Sadly we see too many cases where doctors fail to carry out necessary examinations, or refer patients for suspected cancer investigations, which all too often leads to lives being needlessly being lost.

“In this case the symptoms of possible rectal cancer were apparent over a long period of time. It was our case that, had an appropriate examination and referral been made to a colorectal surgeon at the outset, the patient would have been seen within two weeks and a diagnosis of cancer would have been made within 31 days.

“This would have ensured treatment and surgery could take place promptly. Instead there was more than a one year delay in diagnosis and treatment, which led to the cancer being at a more advanced stage when it was eventually discovered.

“It is also important to note that the only reason the cancer was eventually diagnosed, is that our client took her husband to a private hospital where they had to pay privately for a colonoscopy.”

Making a medical negligence claim

No matter how high the standards of care and treatment in our health services, things can sometimes go wrong.

Medical negligence occurs if you receive substandard treatment by a medical professional, whether that’s directly causing an injury, or making an injury or condition worse.

Medical negligence can also happen if you are misdiagnosed, receive the wrong treatment, or a mistake is made during surgery.

Read more: Clinical and Medical Negligence Compensation Claims

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