Woman Recovers Compensation for the Late Diagnosis of Cancer

A mother of two has recovered £50,000 compensation for the late diagnosis of cancer which resulted in her unnecessarily having chemotherapy treatment.

The unnamed woman from Swindon in Wiltshire visited her GP in March 2009 complaining of a persistent dry cough, a hoarse voice and a lump on the side of her neck. The woman – who had successfully been treated for breast cancer before in 2000 – was referred to the Ear, Nose and Throat Department of the Royal United Hospital in Bath.

At the hospital, the woman underwent a CT scan that indicated she may have cancer of the lymph nodes. However, a biopsy taken after the scan was too small for the preliminary diagnosis to be confirmed and, following a subsequent MRI on her neck, the woman was diagnosed with “idiopathic vocal chord palsy”.

The woman again visited her GP in July 2011 – this time with a larger lump on the left side of her neck, the same persistent dry cough and hoarse voice as before and pins and needles in her left arm. The GP arranged for his patient to have an urgent chest X-ray. The X-ray revealed breast cancer that had metastasised into the woman´s throat and left shoulder.

Six courses of chemotherapy managed to halt the spread of the cancer and resolve the pins and needles in the woman´s left arm, but such was her distress at having to unnecessarily undergo the invasive treatment, that she complained to the Royal University Hospital about the standard of care that she had received.

After the hospital denied that the standard of care she had received fell below an acceptable level, the woman sought legal advice and claimed compensation for the late diagnosis of cancer. An investigation commissioned by her solicitor found abnormalities in the 2009 MRI scan that “at the time and in the circumstances” should have prompted a second biopsy that would have enabled a correct diagnosis.

Despite legal action being threatened, the Royal United Hospital continued to deny its liability for the woman´s unnecessary chemotherapy treatment and refused to discuss a settlement of compensation for the late diagnosis of cancer. However, as soon as court proceedings were issued, the NHS Litigation Authority agreed to settle the claim for £50,000.

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