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Paul McNeil, Head of Personal Injury and Medical Negligence
Gastric cancer generally presents as abdominal pain. Classically the pain is epigastric and worse after the meals. It is often thought to be benign peptic ulceration. Metastatic disease will often present with weight loss. GPs should examine the patient and organise a full blood count and liver function tests. Patients should then be referred to a gastroenterologist. Tests should be repeated and a chest x-ray performed, together with a gastroscopy with endoscopic biopsy of any lesion and CT imaging of the abdomen.
Delays in Diagnosis
The only significant change for cure is surgery (gastrectomy). Patients with inoperable tumours may be treated with palliative chemotherapy.
Mistakes in diagnosing gastric cancer can therefore be very serious, particularly if the opportunity to undergo surgery is lost. To succeed 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 a gastroenterologist for further investigation
- Mistakes in interpreting the investigations
- Mistaken diagnosis of gastric cancer resulting in unnecessary surgery
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