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Medical negligence

Change NHS scan assessment policy to ensure no more cancer patients are failed

A terminally ill woman whose cancer was missed for two and a half years, despite it being clearly visible on an initial scan, has launched a petition to call for a change in NHS protocol to prevent more cancer patients experiencing the failures she did.

30 April 2024

Anne Shaw had survived cancer twice before when she began to worry her ovarian cancer had returned in 2019. Having had scans at St James’s University Hospital in Leeds, she was told she was cancer-free – only to discover in 2021 that a 3cm tumour should have been spotted more than two years earlier.

By the time Anne was diagnosed, the cancer had spread to her bowel and she needed a colostomy. She now lives with a stoma, which she describes as the “most horrible thing you can imagine”, and which medics have told her would not have been necessary had the cancer been detected in 2019.

Now, Anne, from Shadwell near Leeds, has started a petition calling for ‘Anne’s Rule’ to be implemented, which would see all NHS scans which have been requested where clinicians suspect cancer is present, to be checked by two radiologists – one of whom should be a cancer specialist.

In her own case, Anne’s scan was checked by only one radiologist, which is standard practice. The fact it was missed means that Anne – who describes herself as being “on Death Row” after her terminal cancer diagnosis – now experiences severe restrictions around her daily activities and diet.

However, Anne believes that if two doctors report independently on their findings, lives would be saved and outcomes improved through earlier diagnosis.

“While it is too late for me, this change in approach could benefit so many other people in the future,” says Anne.

“Taking proactive action in this way would reduce the risk of cancer being missed, improve patient safety and help to reduce the pressure on NHS staff.

“Together with progressive treatments, this could result in less deaths, families enjoying longer, healthier lives together, and could extend the life expectancy of all cancer sufferers, both now and in the future.”

Through her petition, Anne hopes people will support her calls for action in improving clinical standards, as well as enhancing life expectancy and quality of life for people with cancer and their families.

“What happened to me could and should have been avoided, if only another radiologist had looked at my scan. The tumour is clear to see,” says Anne.

“Everyone has a bad day in the office from time to time and that risk must be factored into the NHS’s approach. People’s lives and quality of life are too important for this to be ignored.

“I understand NHS resources are under pressure, but this would pay for itself. More advanced cancers require expensive treatment and management. They take up a lot of clinical time and the prospect of cure is much lower.”

John Lowther, senior associate and clinical negligence specialist, supported Anne in securing a settlement from St James’s University Hospital.

“Too often, patients seek our help where signs of cancer are missed on scans,” says John.

“As Anne says, everyone makes mistakes and her proposal that imaging results are checked by a second set of eyes is extremely reasonable. Where doctors suspect that a patient has cancer because their medical history and symptoms suggest they are at higher risk, it would be sensible to have two radiologists check the scan.

“In Anne’s case, she now lives with a stoma because it took two and a half years to diagnose that her cancer had returned, despite it being obvious on her initial scan. Anne has proposed a rule that would significantly reduce risk, potentially saving lives and NHS resources.

“Anne’s calls for two radiologists to review the scans of people where cancer is clinically suspected – one of whom will be a cancer specialist – is a very logical one, and one which could very realistically save lives and improve quality of life. We wholeheartedly support her in her campaign for Anne’s Rule to become reality.” To sign Anne’s petition, visit here: Petition · Mandate Independent Review of X-Rays by Two Specialists - United Kingdom ·

Terminal cancer diagnosis: Anne's story

A delayed cancer diagnosis turned Anne's life upside down, going from what was treatable and is now terminal. From being dismissed to withheld information from doctors, she reached out to Slater and Gordon.

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