Being diagnosed with cancer is devastating for patients and their loved ones. Finding out that you have been misdiagnosed can be even worse. When it comes to cancer, early diagnosis and treatment are essential to improve the odds of recovery and a good prognosis.
Medical mistakes or negligence can cause your condition to worsen, leading to unnecessary pain, suffering and financial expenses. Without proper treatment, some types of cancer may cause permanent damage to organs and even become terminal.
Likewise, being wrongly diagnosed with cancer can cause severe emotional and psychological trauma. You may undergo harmful interventions such as chemotherapy or surgery only to find out later that they were unnecessary and your condition was benign.
If you or a loved one suffered due to cancer misdiagnosis, you might be able to make a compensation claim. If your symptoms were incorrectly diagnosed due to an avoidable mistake, you could recover damages for your pain, suffering and financial losses.
To find out whether you can make a cancer misdiagnosis claim and what your options are, enter your details into our online claim form or call 0800 678 1410 to speak to a legal adviser. If your case has merit, you can claim on a no win no fee basis, which involves no financial risks or upfront costs.
Can I make a cancer misdiagnosis claim?
A cancer diagnosis is overwhelming, and early treatment is essential to improve your chances of recovery. A delay in diagnosing your condition could mean that your cancer will be harder to treat or that it could have become terminal.
If your doctor has failed to recognise your symptoms and gave you a wrong diagnosis, you might be able to make a cancer misdiagnosis claim. A free consultation with a personal injury lawyer is the easiest way to determine if you can take legal action.
Usually, a cancer misdiagnosis claim should be possible if:
- You became aware of the negligence in the last three years.
- A healthcare provider breached their duty of care towards you, causing you significant personal and financial damages.
Your solicitor will investigate your claim and consult with medical experts in the field to show that your doctor was negligent. This usually involves proving the following:
A duty of care
Every healthcare professional must provide a reasonable standard of care to patients and act as a competent and skilful professional with the same level of training would act under the same circumstances.
A breach of duty
If your doctor failed to do something within their duty or did something they should not have done, they breached their duty of care towards you. However, not all medical mistakes are considered negligence, and it will be up to the medical experts to assess liability.
To make a successful claim for cancer misdiagnosis compensation, you must show that your condition worsened due to the substandard care you received. If an earlier diagnosis would not have affected your prognosis, your claim will likely not stand.
You will need evidence of the physical and psychological injuries you suffered due to the misdiagnosis of cancer and any financial losses you incurred and for which you want to claim compensation.
Can I claim for a delayed cancer diagnosis?
Early detection of cancer offers the best chance of recovery to patients. The consequences of a delayed cancer diagnosis can be catastrophic, as the tumour can grow and spread to other parts of the body. This may reduce your chances of survival and lead to worse problems associated with treatment.
If you or a loved one has received a delayed cancer diagnosis due to negligent medical care, you might be able to claim compensation. If your solicitor believes your case has merit, they will help you gather relevant evidence to take legal action. This might be in the form of the following:
- Medical records of the investigations and tests your doctor carried out, or failed to carry out, to diagnose your condition;
- Photographs showing any physical consequences of your misdiagnosis;
- Official documents stating any psychological trauma you suffered due to your delayed diagnosis;
- Your detailed notes about your symptoms, the treatments you received and how the negligence affected your life;
- Witness statements from friends, family and medical staff;
- Reports from independent medical experts in the field that your solicitor will arrange for you free of charge;
- Any correspondence between you and your healthcare provider;
- Evidence for all the unnecessary financial losses and expenses you incurred.
Once you have all the necessary evidence to support your claim, your solicitor will contact the doctor or hospital responsible for your cancer misdiagnosis and inform them of your intentions to take legal action.
The defendant has three months to investigate your claim and respond to your allegations of negligence. If they admit liability, you may begin to negotiate cancer misdiagnosis compensation. If they deny any responsibility, your solicitor will issue court proceedings.
However, negotiations will continue, and both parties can make multiple offers until the trial date. According to NHS Resolution reports, only 0.3% of all the NHS negligence claims brought in 2020/21 reached trial, so your claim will most likely settle out of court.
What are the most common types of cancer misdiagnosis claims?
Doctors may misdiagnose cancer in various ways, resulting in different but equally severe consequences. The different types of cancer misdiagnosis claims include:
- Diagnosing the wrong type of cancer – treatments are different for each type of cancer, and administering the wrong medicines can harm the patient while the existing disease progresses.
- Falsely determining that you do not have cancer – an undiagnosed tumour will eventually progress to a stage where it will be much harder to treat.
- Falsely diagnosing cancer when none exists – may cause you to undergo unnecessary and potentially harmful treatments such as surgery, radiation or chemotherapy.
There are several reasons leading to cancer misdiagnosis and a subsequent claim, of which the most common are:
- Failure to perform lung cancer tests on non-smokers
- Failure to interpret test results such as scans, x-rays or blood tests
- GPs not referring patients to specialists for more investigations
- Medication issues in chemotherapy
- Administrative errors such as recording the wrong results or failure to arrange follow-ups
- Mistakenly giving patients the all-clear after treatment
- Failure to take a complete medical history
- Failure to recommend routine screening tests such as mammograms when necessary
How often is cancer misdiagnosed?
Cancer is a severe and often life-threatening condition. In many cases, the prognosis and survival rate depends strictly on how quickly the treatment begins, and a delayed cancer diagnosis can have devastating consequences.
Unfortunately, cancer misdiagnosis is not unusual, and research suggests that between 10 and 20% of cancers are misdiagnosed worldwide. In the UK, the numbers may be relatively higher, and as many as four in 10 patients receive a cancer misdiagnosis.
There are around 375,000 new cancer cases in the UK yearly, meaning that about 1,000 new cases are diagnosed each day. Half of the cancer patients in England and Wales survive their condition for ten years or more. However, a delayed diagnosis may significantly affect the prognosis.
Several signs might indicate that your condition was misdiagnosed, such as:
- Your health does not improve or worsens after being treated for a certain illness
- Your doctor did not consider your medical history before making a diagnosis
- Your doctor failed to pursue other treatment options or diagnostic tests
- Your diagnosis was made based on minimal testing and limited information
- Your doctor fails to address your concerns or questions after making the diagnosis
If you believe that your health and daily life suffered because of a delayed cancer diagnosis, you should enter your details into our online claim form or call 0800 678 1410 to speak to a legal adviser. They can let you know if you are eligible to claim cancer misdiagnosis compensation and answer any questions you may have.
What happens if cancer is misdiagnosed?
Unfortunately, cancer misdiagnosis is not at all unusual. One of the leading causes is the similarity of symptoms between different types of cancer and other non-cancerous conditions. Common signs that should prompt your GP to refer you for specialist tests include:
- Lumps that are rapidly growing
- Coughing, chest pain and breathlessness
- Changes in bowel habit
- Moles that display symptoms such as colour changes, itchiness or bleeding
- Weight loss that cannot be explained by diet, stress, or exercise
- A new pain that does not go away
If your doctor has failed to order relevant tests to diagnose your condition, you may be eligible to make a cancer misdiagnosis claim. Cancer misdiagnosis can have terrible consequences for the victim and their loved ones, including:
- A delayed diagnosis may cause your health to decline significantly;
- It may affect your ability to work, engage in social activities and spend time with loved ones;
- The disease may spread to other areas of your body or metastasise;
- Treatment after a delayed cancer diagnosis is often more complex and debilitating;
- Cancer misdiagnosis may involve substantial costs that could have been avoided;
- Victims and their loved ones may face severe psychological effects;
- Delayed diagnosis and treatment can significantly reduce the victim’s life expectancy;
- The prognosis might change dramatically according to the stage in which the cancer is discovered;
- A false diagnosis can lead to unnecessary cancer treatments that can affect the victim’s overall physical and mental health.
If you suffered unnecessary pain, suffering and financial losses due to cancer misdiagnosis, you might be able to claim compensation. Your solicitor will consider all the ways in which this affected your life to calculate a fair settlement for your damages.
Can I sue the NHS for misdiagnosed cancer?
The NHS services are invaluable in the UK, and most people have a good experience visiting an NHS hospital. The medical staff and doctors usually hold a high standard of care, but careless mistakes may occasionally cause patients unnecessary pain and suffering.
If your condition was misdiagnosed by an NHS healthcare professional, you might be able to make a cancer misdiagnosis claim. All claims against the National Health Service are handled by their own insurer, NHS Resolution. This is a scheme set up by the government to protect the NHS in personal injury cases.
Every NHS Trust in the UK must pay a certain premium each year, and NHS Resolution will award cancer misdiagnosis compensation when a successful claim is made. Your settlement will be paid by the insurance company and not taken away from the resources allocated for patient care and treatment.
The compensation for the misdiagnosis of cancer is not designed to benefit you financially. It aims to place you back in the position you would’ve been without the negligent care you received. Thus, you have no reason to feel uncomfortable about bringing a claim and pursuing compensation.
Your claim may also highlight the lack of proper care in the hospital where you were treated. That could help improve the safety and quality of services offered by the national healthcare system.
What types of cancer are most commonly misdiagnosed?
Many types of cancer have symptoms similar to benign conditions, making them prone to diagnosis errors. Not all mistakes are considered negligence. To have a valid cancer misdiagnosis claim, you must prove that your doctor has failed to provide a reasonable standard of care.
The types of cancer that are most commonly misdiagnosed include:
- Breast cancer
Breast cancer can be mistaken for fibrocystic breast disease or an inflammatory breast condition. Misdiagnosis of breast cancer is most often due to a delay or failure in ordering diagnostic tests or a misinterpretation of these tests.
Without a biopsy or relevant blood tests, the symptoms of lymphoma can be mistaken for another illness. Vice versa, doctors sometimes misdiagnose a non-deadly gastrointestinal tract disease as lymphoma, resulting in unnecessary treatments that can be very harmful to the body.
The diagnostic accuracy of melanoma remains poor, despite the increased awareness of skin cancer over the last decades. Histologic examination is vital to exclude benign lesions and avoid a false cancer diagnosis. While melanoma may be easily curable in its early stages, delayed treatment may cost the patient’s life.
- Lung cancer
The signs and symptoms of lung cancer can be mistaken for something less serious, such as asthma, gastric reflux disease, lung infections, or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. If your doctor was negligent in your diagnosis and made your condition worse, you might be able to make a cancer misdiagnosis claim.
- Bowel cancer
Colon and colorectal cancers are aggressive conditions, and early detection is crucial for patient survival. Without proper investigations, it can be mistaken for irritable bowel syndrome, diverticulitis, colitis or haemorrhoids. Likewise, patients with these conditions could be misdiagnosed with bowel cancer.
- Bladder cancer
The symptoms of bladder cancer are often incorrectly diagnosed as cystitis, kidney or prostate infections, an overactive bladder and other non-cancerous conditions. This may lead to repeated courses of antibiotics and other treatments before specialist referral.
- Ovarian cancer
Ovarian cancer is commonly misdiagnosed as ovarian cysts, premenstrual syndrome or even irritable bowel syndrome. Doctors may also consider other conditions affecting the fallopian tubes, resulting in a delayed cancer diagnosis and a possible claim for compensation.
Mesothelioma is an aggressive and deadly form of cancer caused by asbestos exposure. The initial signs are often mild and incorrectly diagnosed as more common conditions such as bronchitis or pneumonia. Only a biopsy can confirm a mesothelioma diagnosis, and delayed treatment results in a low survival rate.
- Pancreatic cancer
Pancreatic cancer has the highest death rate of any type of cancer within the first year. It can be mistaken for many other diseases, including Celiac disease, irritable bowel syndrome, pancreatitis or biliary stricture. Misdiagnosis of pancreatic cancer can have a devastating impact on the patient’s life and lead to a cancer misdiagnosis claim.
If your life or the life of a loved one was affected by a misdiagnosis of cancer, you might be able to claim compensation for your pain, suffering and financial losses. To start your claim, speak to a trained legal adviser by calling 0800 678 1410 for a free consultation or request a call back.
Can I make a cancer misdiagnosis claim on behalf of somebody else?
If the victim of cancer misdiagnosis is a child or protected party, the Court of Protection Rules 2007 state that any adult could act as a litigation friend on their behalf, as long as:
- They can fairly and competently conduct legal proceedings
- There is no conflict of interest between them and the victim
Becoming a litigation friend is a long-time commitment that brings many responsibilities, such as:
- Pay any fees requested by the court
- Attend court hearings
- Approve and sign legal documents
- Consult with your solicitor and take legal advice
- Make decisions about the claim and consider any compensation offers
- Make sure the victim attends all medical appointments and keep them informed about the case
- Keep updated on the proceedings
As mentioned before, there are two groups of people for which you could claim cancer misdiagnosis compensation:
- Children – People under 18 are not considered to have well-formed judgements, so they are not allowed to take legal action. If the litigation friend service is not used before the child turns 18, they will then have another three years to claim for cancer misdiagnosis.
- Protected parties – According to the Mental Capacity Act 2005, a protected party is an adult who is unable to manage their case due to:
- Post-traumatic stress disorder or other stress-related conditions
- Learning or intellectual disabilities such as Down syndrome
- A mental health disorder like schizophrenia
- A neurodegenerative condition such as Alzheimer’s disease
- A traumatic brain injury or stroke
To become a litigation friend, you have to apply to the court by filling in a certificate of suitability and a certificate of service. Your solicitor will be able to help you fill in both forms and send them to the court together with your cancer misdiagnosis claim.
Can I claim on behalf of somebody who died following a misdiagnosis of cancer?
Yes, according to the Fatal Accidents Act 1976, you could claim if a loved one died due to a misdiagnosis of cancer. The Act states that any dependant of the deceased could take legal action, including:
- Their spouse or former spouse
- A partner living in the same household as a spouse or civil partner for at least two years
- A parent or another ascendant and anyone treated as a parent
- A child and other descendants and anyone treated as a child
- Brothers, sisters, uncles or aunts
If you have relied on the income of the deceased, you can make a financial dependency claim. This takes into account their lost wages, pensions, bonuses, healthcare benefits and other sources of income. If you relied on your loved one’s services, you could also claim the loss of services such as gardening, property maintenance or DIY projects.
Under the Law Reform (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 1934, you could also claim compensation for the financial losses incurred due to the delayed cancer diagnosis, such as lost earnings, medical expenses and care costs.
You could also claim for funeral expenses under both Acts. You are entitled to recover reasonable expenditures such as the headstone, wreaths and a memorial or monument. The wake, memorial service or the cost of funeral clothes are usually not recoverable.
A bereavement award is also available for a limited number of dependants and aims to compensate for grief and suffering. Its value is currently £15,120 and must be equally divided between the eligible claimants, which include:
- A spouse, civil partner or a partner who lived with the deceased for at least two years
- The parents of an unmarried child under 18, if legitimate
- The mother of an unmarried child under 18, if illegitimate
How long do I have to claim cancer misdiagnosis compensation?
Under the Limitation Act 1980, you can usually claim for cancer misdiagnosis within three years after becoming aware of the negligent treatment. When it is reasonable to do so, the court may allow an extension of the claim limitation date, depending on the following:
- The reason and extent of your delay
- How this affected the cogency of evidence
- How promptly and reasonable you acted once you found out you could claim
- The steps you took to get expert advice
- Whether you asked for a second medical opinion after the initial diagnosis
There are several exceptions to the three-year limitation period:
- If the case involves a child, a litigation friend could claim compensation for a delayed cancer diagnosis at any time. The three-year time limit begins to run once they turn 18.
- The three year time limit is suspended if the person is mentally incapacitated and unable to conduct their own legal affairs. It only begins if they later regain the mental capacity to claim.
- If you received negligent treatment abroad, the time limit to make a cancer misdiagnosis claim could vary considerably from country to country.
- In wrongful death cases, a dependant of the deceased could claim compensation within three years after the date of death or after a post-mortem confirmed the cause of death.
Regardless of the circumstances, it is highly encouraged that you seek legal advice as soon as possible after learning that you received a delayed cancer diagnosis. This will give your solicitor more time to collect evidence and build a strong case to support your claim.
How much compensation can I claim for cancer misdiagnosis?
Each cancer misdiagnosis claim is unique, and the amount of compensation you could receive depends on the impact the misdiagnosis has had on you and your loved ones. Your solicitor will consider how it affected you financially and personally to ensure you are fully compensated.
Some of the considerations for cancer misdiagnosis compensation include the following:
- The type and location of your injury
- The severity of the injury and the extent of the damage it caused
- The estimated time for recovery, when applicable
- How the misdiagnosis of cancer affected your daily life
- Any financial losses related to the delayed cancer diagnosis
In every personal injury claim, you can receive compensation for the following:
Special damages – this covers the financial losses you incurred because of your injury, such as:
- The cost of medical appointments and prescriptions
- Private treatments and rehabilitation
- Lost wages, including future losses if you are not able to return to work
- Transportation costs
- The cost of assistive devices and aids necessary for recovery
- Care and assistance, even if offered by friends or family
- Any other expenses you incurred due to the cancer misdiagnosis
General damages – this refers to the compensation awarded for the physical injury and how it affected your life, taking into account:
- Physical pain and suffering
- Mental anguish and psychological trauma
- Loss of consortium or companionship
- Reduced quality of life and life expectancy
- Physical disability
- Scarring and disfigurement
- Loss of prospects and enjoyment of life
- Loss of amenities
The compensation for cancer misdiagnosis is based on the guidelines published by the Judicial College. These cover only the awards for pain, suffering and other general damages. Your solicitor will add up all your financial losses to calculate your award for special damages.
According to the Judicial College, you could receive the following awards for general damages in a successful cancer misdiagnosis claim:
- £60,000 to £100,000 for severe injuries to internal organs
- £1,000 to £200,000 for avoidable pain and suffering, depending on the severity
- £8,550 to £28,240 for moderately severe scarring
- £5,500 to £17,900 for mild psychiatric damage
- £8,550 to £28,240 for scarring caused by unnecessary surgery
- £50,000 to £300,000 for spinal cord injuries
- £40,410 to £85,150 for moderate brain injuries affecting concentration and memory
- £12,000 to £300,000 for wrongful death
To get a better idea of your cancer misdiagnosis compensation prospects, please refer to our compensation calculator. Alternatively, you can call 0800 678 1410 or enter your details into our online claim form to receive a free consultation with a legal adviser.
How much will it cost to make a claim?
Most cancer misdiagnosis claims are funded with a no win no fee agreement, meaning it will cost you nothing to take legal action. If your solicitor believes you have a fair chance to win, they will take on your claim without asking for any upfront fees.
If your case has merit, you will sign a conditional fee agreement, which states that:
- You do not have to pay your solicitor unless they win compensation for your misdiagnosis of cancer;
- If your claim is successful, you have to pay a success fee to your solicitor for the risk they took by offering you a no win no fee service.
The conditional fee agreement confirms that you have a valid case with a fair chance of success. You can also be sure that your solicitor will do their utmost to win cancer misdiagnosis compensation, as they will not be able to recoup their costs otherwise.
The no win no fee service makes the claims process less stressful and allows you to focus on your health and loved ones while your solicitor handles all the legal aspects of your case.
At the beginning of your cancer misdiagnosis claim, your solicitor will also take out an After the Event (ATE) insurance policy on your behalf. The ATE policy is a legal expenses insurance that offers full coverage for any costs and disbursements incurred during litigation, including:
- The defendant’s solicitor fees
- Court and counsel fees
- The cost of medical reports
- Expert witness fees
- Travel costs
- Paralegal, secretarial and other staff time
- Barrister fees if your case goes to court
The no win no fee service allows everyone to take legal action, regardless of their financial situation, and without taking any financial risks. You only have to pay anything if your case is successful, including:
- The cost of the ATE insurance, which you do not have to cover if you lose the case;
- The success fee that you pay to your solicitor. The success fee cannot exceed 25% of your cancer misdiagnosis compensation, and you agree to it from the beginning.
To find out if you could claim compensation for a delayed cancer diagnosis on a no win no fee basis, you can enter your details into our online claim form or call 0800 678 1410 to speak to a legal adviser.