Bowel cancer causes nearly 10% of all deaths in the UK and is the second most diagnosed cancer with over 35,000 new cases reported every year.
It is possible to detect bowel cancer early and treat it but unfortunately it is not always picked up in time even though diagnosis should have been possible. In these cases patients may be able to make a claim for medical negligence against the doctor or service that failed to make the diagnosis.
How Is Bowel Cancer Detected?
Bowel cancer can be treated successfully if caught early enough and detected in it’s earliest stage. The 5 year survival rate is 90% so it’s critical that patients that present with symptoms are treated without delay.
The common symptoms of bowel cancer are:
- The development of polyps (abnormal tissue growths). These are usually non-cancerous to start with and so removed early can stop the cancer developing.
- Blood in the stool (usually bright red or very dark blood).
- Feeling that the bowel does not empty completely.
- Passing mucus from the rectum.
- Abdominal pain.
- Bloating or fullness.
- Iron deficiency.
- Unexplained weight loss or even anorexia.
The symptoms above are not comprehensive but some patients making claims for medical negligence when they have bowel cancer have been misdiagnosed because the symptoms can be similar to Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS).
To be successful in claiming for compensation the patient needs to prove that if treatment had started at the time of the initial doctors appointment then the outcome for them would have improved.
Usually cases of medical negligence with regards bowel cancer need to show that there was a delay of months rather than weeks and show that if the treatment began at the start then the cancer would’ve cured or the spread would’ve been less.
Anybody could get bowel cancer but there are risk factors that the NHS look for including:
- Patients who are over 60 years old.
- Patients who have a family history of bowel cancer.
- Having other bowel conditions like Crohn’s disease.
- Patients who have a history of polyps in the large bowel.
A GP surgery will offer patients a free screening at the age of 60 and will re-screen every 2 years going forward.
Any patient who was diagnosed as having another condition, like IBS, and then is subsequently diagnosed with bowel cancer would have a good case for making a compensation claim for medical negligence.
Time Limits When Claiming For Misdiagnosis Of Bowel Cancer
When claiming for compensation against a doctor or hospital for the misdiagnosis of bowel cancer there are strict time limits set out in law for making the claim.
Each claim needs to made within 3 years of the patient realising that they had developed bowel cancer and that it had been misdiagnosed at an earlier stage.
Proving That The Delay In Diagnosis Had An Adverse Affect On The Patients Outcome
Most successful claims for misdiagnosis of bowel cancer have a time delay of at least 7 months from when the patient presents symptoms to when they were finally diagnosed with bowel cancer. Bowel cancer is graded as Duke’s stage A, B, C and D. Each grade is reached by determining the physical effect of the cancer.
An oncologist will be used to work out what stage the patient was at when finally diagnosed and what stage they would’ve been at if the diagnosis had come earlier. It has to be proven that the delay has caused another physical problem rather than the patient just having bowel cancer that they already had anyway. If the fact there was a delay has reduced the chance of survival then the compensation amount will include a sum to reflect this.
Choosing the correct solicitor to deal with a claim because of medical negligence is important. It is important to choose one who can demonstrate their expertise in dealing with recent bowel cancer claims.
It is advised that patients make use of the free consultation that solicitors offer to ask questions and help to decide which solicitor to use.