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Paul McNeil, Head of Personal Injury and Medical Negligence
Cancer of the larynx usually presents with hoarseness of the voice. Other typical presentations include changes in the character of the cough due to paralysis of the vocal cord. Late disease may present with development of lumps in the neck due to spread of the cancer to the lymph nodes.
Diagnosis should be reached by an ENT surgeon. They should attempt to visualise the larynx by direct laryngoscopy. Staging investigations such as CT scan of the neck and a chest x-ray will be organised together with routine blood testing.
Delays in Diagnosis
If cancer of the larynx is diagnosed early the chance of cure is normally good. Early stage disease is treated with radiotherapy. Advanced disease has a relatively poor prognosis. Treatment includes neoadjuvant chemotherapy followed by radical radiotherapy or surgery.
Mistakes in diagnosing cancer of the larynx can therefore be very serious. To succed in a medical negligence claim you need to prove that the delay affected the outcome. Usually this means you need to prove that during the delay the cancer progressed to a more advanced stage. Therefore, delays of a few months are unlikely to be enough. However if cancer is left, it is likely to grow and can spread to other parts of the body. Medical negligence claims may be brought for:
- Failure to carry out adequate examination or take an accurate history
- Failure to refer a patient to an ENT surgeon for further investigation
- Mistakes in interpreting the investigations
- Mistaken diagnosis of cancer of the larynx
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