£500,000 Compensation for Delayed Breast Cancer Diagnosis

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A Medical Negligence Claim Case Study - Client Situation

Our client was diagnosed with the BRAC2 gene some years ago, meaning she was more likely than most to develop breast cancer. So in late 2014, she decided to have an elective mastectomy.

After a psychological assessment and consultation with a breast surgeon, she was told in early 2015 that the surgery would go ahead in the summer.

When she didn’t receive any date for surgery, our client assumed this was due to NHS pressures and the fact her surgery was considered low priority.

In December 2015, she attended her annual screening mammogram, and the results showed that she’d developed breast cancer. Investigations also found she had a tumour measuring around 6cm in size and that the cancer had spread to the lymph nodes.

She underwent an intensive 6-week course of chemotherapy, which caused several extremely unpleasant side effects, including an episode of sepsis, hair loss, loss of finger and toenails and burns to her hands and forearms.

This treatment was followed by the mastectomy with reconstruction, and then a course of radiotherapy. However, the radiotherapy caused the reconstructed right breast to become distorted, meaning more reconstruction surgery was needed.

The treatment caused long-term difficulties for our client, including the risk of life-long lymphedema, meaning she had to limit the use of her right arm. She also struggled with fatigue and dysthymia, a mild but persistent form of depression.

These problems affected her ability to work, so she wasn’t able to stay in her job as a medical professional. She also struggled with carrying out day-to-day tasks like driving and heavy lifting.

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How We Helped

Our client got in touch with our Medical Negligence Solicitors for a free consultation and legal advice.

We were able to take on her claim on a No Win, No Fee basis, and Medical Negligence Solicitor Rebecca Brunton dealt with the case.

Rebecca instructed several medical experts to compile medical reports on the standard of care our client received. Experts were also asked to outline what her condition would have been if the alleged medical negligence hadn’t happened.

Our oncology expert stated that surgery should have gone ahead in summer 2015, adding that although the cancer would have been present at this time, the tumour would have been much smaller. A surgical specialist we brought in to examine the case agreed.

Our medical experts also concluded that earlier surgery would have meant fewer lymph nodes would have needed removing, and the risk of lymphedema would have been much lower.

The benefit of chemotherapy and radiotherapy in summer 2015 would have been limited, as our client’s chances of survival would already have been very good.

Our client was clear that in light of the limited benefit of that treatment and her knowledge of it from working in medicine, she wouldn’t have chosen to have it. On this basis, our case was that all the side effects and problems caused by the chemotherapy, radiotherapy and lymph node clearance would have been avoided with earlier diagnosis.

With the expert medical evidence supporting our case, we sent a Letter of Claim to the hospital responsible.

In response, the hospital admitted that the surgery should have been carried out before the end of July 2015 and that at that time, the tumour would have been only 1.6cm in size and lymph node negative.

However, the hospital denied that the chemotherapy, radiotherapy and more extensive lymph node removal would have been avoided, arguing our client’s difficulties would have occurred anyway.

At this point, it appeared the only way to settle the case would be to go to Court.

The Outcome

Despite continuing to argue that the delay in diagnosis didn’t make a difference to our client's treatment or outcome, the hospital did eventually offer to settle.

Following further negotiations, the hospital offered to pay £500,000 in medical negligence compensation, which was accepted by our client.

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