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Ovarian Cancer Misdiagnosis Claims

Roughly 7000 women are unfortunately diagnosed with ovarian cancer in the UK each year, and in 2011 alone, 4,272 deaths occurred from the disease. These deaths are made even harder to contemplate when they result from misdiagnosis. Where this occurs, a medical malpractice claim may be built.

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Cancer Misdiagnosis Claims

What Is Ovarian Cancer?

A woman’s ovaries produce several necessary hormones which can unfortunately help encourage the growth of cancer cells. Ovarian cancer occurs when these cells grow in one or both of the ovaries. There are three main types of ovarian cancer:

  • epithelial ovarian cancer, affecting the surface layers of the ovary
  • germ cell tumours, originating in the cells that make the eggs
  • stromal tumours, developing within the cells that hold the ovaries together

By some distance, epithelial ovarian cancer is the most common type of ovarian cancer.

What Causes Ovarian Cancer?

Ovarian cancer is caused by the growth of ovarian cysts – abnormal cells in one or both of the ovaries.

The root cause of ovarian cancer is undetermined, though there is speculation that the cancer could be due to the mutation of certain genes. Suggested risk factors that encourage the development of cancer include the breast cancer gene 1 and 2 (BRCA1 + BRCA2). Those at a higher risk of developing ovarian cancer include women who have never had children, those who have taken fertility drugs, and women over 50.

When it is diagnosed in its early stages of development, the ovarian cancer prognosis is usually positive. However, because symptoms of ovarian cancer can be very mild and resemble other common conditions, it can be very difficult to diagnose early, meaning it is frequently only discovered at an advanced stage. Nonetheless, a GP should be aware of the risks of ovarian cancer developing and conduct precautionary tests to check for the disease’s presence.

What Are The Symptoms of Ovarian Cancer?

Ovarian cancer symptoms are notoriously elusive. However, evidence shows that if the following symptoms are present and occur daily, ovarian cancer may be the cause:

  • Continuous pelvic and abdominal pain
  • Extreme, unexplained bloating and weight gain
  • Loss of appetite
  • Frequent urination
  • Nausea
  • Diarrhoea and constipation
  • Drastic and unexplained change in weight
  • Menstrual abnormalities/ unexplained bleeding

If a combination of these symptoms are present, a GP should send the patient for tests with a specialist following the initial consultation. Where they fail to do so despite a number of these symptoms being present, a claim for medical malpractice compensation may, in some cases, be built.

How Should Ovarian Cancer Be Diagnosed?

A GP will take a physical examination of the patient before referring to a specialist if ovarian cancer is suspected.  It is a common misconception that a smear test indicates ovarian cancer.

A vaginal or internal examination to investigate the  ovaries and womb should also be taken, alongside a blood sample.

If necessary, the GP may then refer the patient to a specialist (gynaecologist or gynaecological oncologist) at the hospital. If the cancer has still not been confirmed, the specialist should conduct tests to verify the diagnosis. These tests are geared to detect a physical mass in the ovaries (the cyst) and may include:

  •  ultrasound scans, which uses high-frequency sound waves to produce a detailed image of the ovaries
  • computed tomography (CT) scans, an imaging technique used to look for signs the cancer may have spread
  • magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scans, an imaging technique based on magnets which provides an idea of the texture and size of potential cysts
  • laparoscopy, where a tiny telescope is inserted into a small incision in the lower abdomen to examine the ovaries.

How Should Ovarian Cancer Be Treated?

The treatment process for ovarian cancer is very aggressive. It usually involves a full hysterectomy, with the surgical removal of both of the ovaries, the fallopian tubes, and uterus. To make sure the cancer doesn’t spread any further, additional treatment requires removal of any lymph nodes, or abdominal tissue which may appear in the surrounding areas. Following this, a course of chemotherapy is usually prescribed to kill any of the remaining cancer cells which may have spread to other parts of the body, slowing down their growth.

Prognosis for Ovarian Cancer

For the best chance of recovery, it is imperative that ovarian cancer be caught in its early stages – otherwise, treatment may prove unsuccessful. Owing to the late diagnosis in so many cases, more than half of all ovarian cancer sufferers will die of the disease.

Doctors have a responsibility to take all the necessary precautions, diagnosing illnesses when the symptoms are presented to them. If pain or discomfort has been persistent, and no alternative diagnosis made, delayed treatment may occur which ultimately leads to fatalities due to the disease being allowed to manifest. Where this occurs, a claim for medical negligence compensation may be built due to the avoidable complications and costs enacted on the patient, which in some cases even means loss of life.

How Might I Have A Claim?

If a GP or specialist fails to diagnose or correctly treat ovarian cancer, causing undue suffering to the patient, this may warrant a claim for clinical negligence compensation. There are several circumstances which might lead to a clinical negligence claim as a result of cancer of the ovaries:

Firstly, there may be a delay in diagnosis of the ovarian cyst, which may result from a GP failing to pick up on signs and symptoms which should have led to further investigations. For a claim to be successful, it is necessary to show that the delay has resulted in a worse outcome – as is often the case with cancers left unchecked. Often, the size of the cancerous cluster of cells and the ease with which it can be removed relate directly to how good the ovarian cancer prognosis provided is.

Once a diagnosis of ovarian cancer has been made, it is integral that the patient understands their treatment options. In some cases, surgery may carry a significant risk of leaving the patient with severe disabilities or infection, and so it is the responsibility of the medical professional to inform their patients of such risks.

If surgery is decided upon it may not be undertaken with sufficient care. Cancer surgery is very complicated, and complications such as infection or internal bleeding may occur during the operation. If these complications could have been avoided with reasonable care, a claim for compensation may be made.

Finally, there have been cases where patients who did not actually have ovarian cancer were diagnosed with it. These patients may undergo the psychological stress of believing themselves a cancer patient – even, as has been known to occur, pre-operation tests and treatment which might include surgery – when in fact they had contracted something far less severe. These cases might also warrant a claim due to the distress and time off work and consequent financial losses suffered through clinical negligence.

Our Ovarian Cancer Misdiagnosis Experience

Errors arising from cases of ovarian cancer misdiagnosis hold dire repercussions for patients. At Asons, we understand the detrimental effect it has on victims as the cancer worsens while they mistakenly assume they have a less severe condition. This is coupled with the psychological stress from being let down by a trusted medical professional. We know that victims and their families are often hesitant to come forward with their claims. As medical negligence solicitors, it’s our job to do everything within our means to make the process as straightforward as possible.

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Be Quick…

As with any claim, you may be worried about the potential costs of pursuing your clinical negligence case. To address this common concern, we have devised a variety of options to help you. We help acquire all the assistance that you are entitled to, whilst managing resulting compensation in the most beneficial way possible. We must remind you to be quick, however, as there are time limits in place for making claims of this kind.

Next Steps

We deal with medical negligence claims on a regular basis. If you or a loved one have suffered as a result of substandard treatment, you may be eligible to make a claim. Our Medical Negligence Solicitors will work to gather all of the appropriate paperwork and documentation, whilst speaking to the parties involved, substantiating your medical claim.

If you would like to make a claim you can fill out our claim form located to your right. Alternatively, you could use our contact details found in the footer.

Help And Support

Living with ovarian cancer can be a constant struggle – both mentally and physically. Ovacome UK is a support group for all those suffering from the disease, and organises regional events for sufferers to meet and discuss their conditions, as well as fundraising events to help fund treatment and research costs for its diagnosis and treatment.

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