Regretfully, 1 in 3 people in Ireland will develop cancer during their lifetime. An average of 30,000 new cases of cancer are diagnosed each year with the 5 most common cancers being non-melanoma skin cancer, prostate cancer, breast cancer, bowel cancer and lung cancer.

Cancer accounts for over ¼ of the annual death toll and is the second most common cause of death in Ireland. Recent figures have shown that over 8000 people died from cancer in 2009.

Cancer survival rates are increasing with a very high percentage surviving the disease.

Regretfully, mistakes continue to be made by medical staff. These can include delayed diagnosis, misdiagnosis or surgical errors.

Delayed diagnosis or Misdiagnosis

In many cases patients receive a delayed diagnosis of breast cancer. Some of the most common involved-

  • Failure by GP’s to refer patients for tests when they present at their surgeries with symptoms such as a lump in their breast or underarm.
  • Insufficient tests being carried out when a lump is found. For example a negative mammogram should be followed up with a scan.
  • Needle aspiration or biopsy as there is a risk of a false negative result from a mammogram particularly in an older lady.
  • Test results being read incorrectly and a negative result being given instead of a positive one. In this case, failure to correctly diagnose can mean that the cancer is allowed to grow untreated. The opportunity to treat the cancer can be lost completely and this can lead to a reduced life expectancy or death. People who suffer misdiagnosis can sue for damages for the loss of a chance of survival.

How long before a misdiagnosis starts to cause adverse effects?

The minimum period of delay which can be stated to cause an adverse outcome will vary depending on the type of cancer and how aggressive the tumour is. However, it is likely to be months rather than weeks from the date that the Doctor should have made the diagnosis or suspected the diagnosis and referred you to someone more expert for an opinion. The test for getting for compensation is what, on the balance of probability, would have been done differently with an earlier diagnosis, and whether that earlier treatment should have made a difference to the outcome.

Breast Cancer

Breast cancer is the most common type of cancer found in women. Most diagnoses are in women over 50. However, it can effect much younger women and sadly this is where a number of cases involving misdiagnosis can occur.

Breast cancer can either be invasive or non-invasive. If the cancers have a non-invasive type an earlier diagnosis can also allow an operation to remove the cancer to take place. Clearly, early diagnosis gives a much better chance of survival. If the cancer is invasive it is known as invasive ductal carcinoma. The cancer cells are found in the ducts in the breast tissue. These cells can then spread to other parts of the body.

If you discover changes in your breast or a lump you should be referred to a specialist unit for further tests by your GP and a biopsy would then be necessary. If a biopsy has not been offered where you have reported changes to your breast and where bleeding has also incurred but no further follow up appointments have been given your GP may have acted negligently.

Your test results will have to be correctly interpreted and failure to do so can lead to an incorrect/inadequate diagnosis or inadequate treatment being given.

If any of these issues effect you and you wish to speak with Liam Moloney Solicitor in the strictest of confidence please contact him today at 045-898 000 for a discussion.

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