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Case Study

£200,000 settlement from Whittington Hospital for delayed breast cancer diagnosis

We settled a cancer compensation claim for Claire following a negligence delay in diagnosing her with breast cancer. Claire accepted £200,000 compensation from the Whittington Hospital for the injuries caused by the negligence.

In June 1994, Claire, then aged 38, discovered two lumps in her right breast. Her GP referred her to a consultant surgeon at the Whittington Hospital where she had an ultrasound and a mammogram. These showed no focal abnormality which suggests that the lumps were not cancerous.

Claire was reviewed by the consultant surgeon in July and September. The lumps remained palpable on Claire's right breast and the surgeon recommended that another ultrasound as a precaution and this was scheduled for January 1995.

Again there was no focal abnormality in the ultrasound in January. But when the surgeon reviewed Claire in February he found lumpiness in her right breast. He scheduled a 3 month review and Claire attended her appointment on 5 May 1995 where she was seen by a locum registrar. Claire maintains she was not offered a biopsy at this point, although the hospital dispute this claim.

Two months later Claire saw the consultant surgeon again and he advised that she didn't need any further examinations or tests. But on Claire's insistence he arranged for a further review in 3 months time and in October examination found lumpiness and a further ultrasound was carried out in November.

The ultrasound indicated that a biopsy was required and this was carried out on 8 December 1995. The biopsy indicated that Claire had an invasive lobular carcinoma, which is a cancer that began in the milk producing lobules and spread to the surrounding breast tissue.

The surgeon advised Claire to undergo a further procedure in the form of a wide excision and biopsy of the axillary nodes and this was performed in January 1996. Claire was not advised to undergo mastectomy.

On 29 January 1996, Claire saw a consultant oncologist who advised her that she should have had a mastectomy. Also, he recommended radiotherapy with Tamoxifen and suggested that she consider undergoing chemotherapy. Claire opted to have six weeks of radiotherapy.

However, in July 1997, Claire found another lump in her right breast and a biopsy in November indicated that it the cancer had returned. Claire underwent a full mastectomy and also had a course of chemotherapy.

Claire contacted us and asked us to investigate a cancer diagnosis claim for the delay in diagnosing her breast cancer. We obtained expert evidence which indicated that Claire's lump should have been investigated sooner and she should have had a biopsy or had a fine needle aspiration of the lump as early as 1994.

The experts were also agreed that on the balance of probabilities, if a biopsy been undertaken in September 1994, a correct diagnosis of the carcinoma would have been made.

This would have meant that Claire would not need drastic surgery to remove the cancer and also that the cancer would not have recurred so Claire would have avoided a full mastectomy and would not have needed chemotherapy either.

Our experts indicated that Claire would have had an excellent prognosis if her cancer had been detected earlier.

The defendant denied liability until we exchanged expert evidence. At this point, the defendant admitted breach of duty, however, no admission of causation was made.

The defendant made an offer to settle the claim and Claire accepted £200,000 damages for the delay in diagnosing her with breast cancer.