Novum Law secures settlement after delay in cancer diagnosis

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Novum Law secures £50K settlement for Wiltshire woman after hospital’s delay in diagnosing breast cancer

Specialist personal injury law firm Novum Law has secured a £50K out of court settlement against the Royal United Hospitals Bath NHS Foundation Trust for a Wiltshire mother whose metastatic breast cancer should have been diagnosed sooner.

The woman, who had a history of cancer in her left breast and was successfully treated while living in France in 2000, went to her local GP in March 2009, complaining of a lump on the left hand side of her neck and a persistent dry cough.

She was referred to the ENT (ear, nose and throat) department at the Royal United Hospital (RUH) in Bath where she underwent a CT scan which suggested she may have lymphoma, a cancer of the lymph nodes. She then underwent an endoscopy and a biopsy of her lymph nodes but unfortunately the sample taken was insufficient for a full assessment to be carried out.

Following an ENT review, the hospital decided there was no need to repeat the lymph node biopsy and instead carried out an MRI scan on her neck. This was reported as showing no cause for concern and the woman was diagnosed as suffering from ‘idiopathic vocal chord palsy’ or weakness of the vocal chords which causes a progressively worsening cough and a weak, hoarse voice.

However, nearly two and a half years’ later in July 2011, she went back to her GP again suffering from tethering of the skin in the left hand side of her neck, an increase in the size of her left cervical lymph nodes and pins and needles going up and down her left arm, in addition to the continuing problems with her voice.

Following an urgent chest x-ray and ultrasound scan of her neck, she was referred to the oncology team at the RUH who confirmed that she was, in fact, suffering from metastatic breast cancer which had spread into her left shoulder and neck and involved the left brachial plexus, the network of nerve fibres that supplies the skin and muscles in the arms.

Extensive oncology treatment followed, including six gruelling courses of chemotherapy, which managed to halt the cancer’s spread and improved her symptoms in her left arm and the weakness in her voice, but she was left very distressed and disappointed the hospital had failed to diagnose her cancer sooner.

She made a complaint to the RUH who denied any failings in relation to the standard of care provided and that’s when she got in touch with South West law firm Novum Law, whose specialist personal injury solicitors have many years of experience in clinical negligence cases.

An independent clinical investigation, commissioned by Novum Law, revealed that the MRI scan carried out in 2009 had failed to detect a number of abnormalities which, if reported, would have resulted in her cancer being  diagnosed and treated in or around October 2009 instead of some 22 months’ later in 2011.

Had the cancer been spotted first time around, the patient would have not required chemotherapy and would likely have been treated with hormone therapy alone. In addition, her medical treatment would have cured her vocal chord palsy.

Daniel Green, Associate Solicitor at Novum Law, and an expert in clinical negligence compensation claims, said: “Despite our client’s experience, the defendant continued to deny that the failure of the radiologist to report the abnormalities in the MRI scan fell below an acceptable standard of care. This is disappointing but sadly, has become par for the course in clinical negligence cases, where the NHS Litigation Authority (NHSLA) and its defendant solicitors refuse point blank to accept liability.

“However, we are delighted that we achieved a very good settlement for our client which has compensated her for the 22 month delay in diagnosing her cancer. She is over the moon that her ordeal is now over and she can draw a line under what has, understandably, been a very, very tough time in her life.

“It is her great hope that the Hospital Trust will have learned valuable lessons from her experience and will work to ensure that similar mistakes will not happen to other patients in the future.”

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