My newspaper tells me that with breast cancer rates rising, 1 in 8 women will suffer from the disease during their lifetime.
This raises a challenge for our healthcare system: how are we to make sure the disease is diagnosed more quickly and earlier?
Our track record in the UK is not as good as other European countries. Cancer is often diagnosed later at a stage when treatment is left effective and the outcome poorer. The government’s own estimate is that 10,000 people die each year because of late diagnosis of cancer. This is a massive figure and there is a real problem here.
We are only 6 weeks into a new year and I have already been consulted by 6 people with serious concerns over a missed or delayed diagnosis on cancer. In one very distressing case a woman had a scan of her chest reported as clear. A year later another scan showed advanced lung cancer. When the earlier scan was reviewed there was a clear sign of a tumour visible but the radiologist had missed it. Apologising, he said that he must have scrolled too quickly through the images.
People make mistakes and the sheer pressure of work in stretched NHS services mean that errors are more likely to happen. But the impact on patients is devastating. For this woman it is too late for surgery and any chance of a cure. The cancer has already spread to her brain.
My job is to help people recover some recompense where mistakes have occurred. Damages cannot turn the clock back but they can often provide valuable help for people needed care and assistance. However the real challenge is to prevent these real tragedies but cutting down the errors and diagnosing cancer earlier.
Paul Sankey is a solicitor specialising in clinical negligence. If you or a member of your family have a clinical negligence enquiry please call our expert clinical negligence solicitors on 0800 916 9049 or contact us online and one of our specialist clinical negligence team will be in touch.