Research by Macmillan Cancer Support suggests that survival rates for cancer are still lower in the UK than in many of our European neighbours.
Although cancer survival rates have doubled in 40 years, survival rates in the UK in many cases are still at a level where other countries stood 10 years ago.
For example, only 10% survive lung cancer in the UK compared to 18% in Austria. Breast and colon cancer shows similar patterns although the survival rates are much better.
Finland, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands and Norway all recorded better lung cancer survival rates in the 1990s than the UK did in the 2000s.
The results of this research will come as no surprise to those involved in the management of cancer as it confirms what we have known for some time. A report from the Public Accounts Committee recently criticised a lack of ‘momentum in the drive to improve cancer services in the last 2 years’.
So what are the causes? There are probably a large number of factors at work. There is some evidence that patients consult doctors later in the UK than elsewhere and there is no doubt there are deficiencies in the level of care hospitals can provide.
Our own experience as a team of Medical Negligence Solicitors acting for patients who have been harmed by Delayed Cancer Diagnosis or negligent medical treatment is that there are a number of errors we see repeatedly. These include:
• Doctors failing to listen adequately to patients and take account of their symptoms;
• GPs failing to consider cancer as a possible diagnosis and make early referrals as a result;
• Failing to carry out the right investigations such as biopsies, scans and x-rays;
• Mistakes in interpreting biopsies, scans and x-rays.
The most common cases where negligent errors have led to clear harm to clients involve bowel, breast and cervical cancer and melanoma. Sadly the stories are all too often tragic. What is even more tragic however is that they so often arise due to errors that are entirely preventable.
The Macmillan research therefore confirms what we know already and supports the case for a better understanding of why UK cancer survival rates continue to lag behind the rest of Europe.
Paul Sankey is a Senior Clinical & Medical Negligence Solicitor leading the Slater and Gordon Lawyers Clinical Negligence team in London.
Slater and Gordon Lawyers help people who have suffered from delayed or wrong diagnosis of cancer due to Medical Negligence.
For a free consultation call the Medical Negligence Solicitors at Slater and Gordon Lawyers on freephone 0800 916 9049 or contact us online and we will call you.
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