A lot of my working day seems to be taken up with cases to do with errors in diagnosing cancer. This and the fact that statistics for increasing rates of breast cancer, widely reported by the press, could be rather discouraging. They could also give the impression that our health system is somehow failing.
The statistic which hit the headlines recently was that the number of cases of breast cancer has gone up from 1 in 9 to 1 in 8 women. Hearing of victims such as Kylie Minogue gives the impression that this is a widespread disease which can hit the young, beautiful and wealthy as well as the rest. The truth is that the headlines are misleading.
Breast cancer tends to develop later in life. It is rare in the under 50s. The 1 in 8 figure only applies to the over 70s. Screening has led to the condition being detected earlier and survival rates are rising. Among the ‘8’ is a degree of double-counting where someone who has had breast cancer twice appears as 2 rather than 1.
Developing research is giving a better understanding of the risk factors and a healthy lifestyle is thought to reduce the risk of all forms of cancer.
The only cases I see are of course where things have gone wrong – where mistakes have been made which have led to delays in diagnosis. And it is very tragic to meet people struggling with cancer in its advanced stages where errors have prevented the hope of cure. So it is good to be reminded that all may not be quite as bad as it seems despite the gloomy headlines.
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.