What Is Brain Cancer?
Brain cancer is caused by a malignant brain tumour, a fast-growing type of cancer which may then spread to other areas of the brain and spine. Most of these tumours are secondary brain cancers, meaning they started in another part of the body and then spread to the brain – primary brain tumours, which start in the brain, are far less common.
Brain tumours are graded from 1 to 4 according to their behaviour, speed of growth and likeliness to spread. Those graded 1 and 2 are typically benign, while grades 3 and 4 are usually malignant.
What Are The Symptoms Of Brain Cancer?
Brain cancer symptoms are dependent on the size of the tumour and its position in the brain, which may have different effects on particular faculties. There are generally symptoms resulting from increased pressure on the brain, including:
- epilepsy or fits, which can be either major seizures or twitching in one area of the body
- severe, persistent headaches
- irritability, drowsiness, apathy or forgetfulness
- vomiting, which is sometimes sudden and without apparent cause
- partial loss of vision or hearing
- personality changes, including abnormal and uncharacteristic behaviour
These brain tumour symptoms may often be paired with a loss of function in a particular area of the brain (dependent on the location of the tumour). Common area-specific symptoms include, weakness in one side of the body, loss of vision on one side, changes in personality, loss of nose function, difficulty speaking and swallowing, difficulty walking, vomiting, fits or blackouts, problems with memory, and a stiff neck. Dependent on the symptoms present, a GP should be able to diagnose a brain tumour and its location, or refer to a specialist for further testing. However, some symptoms more obviously point to brain cancer than others, and mistakes may still be made, including brain cancer misdiagnosis as something less serious such as migraines. Where this occurs, you may have grounds to make a medical malpractice claim.
How Should Brain Cancer Be Diagnosed?
If brain cancer is suspected by a GP, he should immediately refer the patient to a specialist. The specialist should ask about their medical history and symptoms, and examine the nervous system for abnormalities, which may include tests of:
- reflexes, such as the swallow reflex and knee-jerk reactions
- facial muscles – testing whether they can smile or grimace, for example
- hearing and vision
- limb strength
- balance and co-ordination
- skin sensitivity – to pinpricks, heat and cold
- mental agility (simple arithmetic)
If brain cancer is still suspected after some of the above tests, advanced scans should be conducted to help diagnosis. These may include:
- computerised tomography (CT) scan – series of X rays to produce a picture of the brain
- magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scan – magnetic field and radiowave scan to produce a picture of the brain
- electroencephalogram (EEG) – brain activity is recorded using electrodes
- biopsy – a surgical removal of a small piece of tissue may be taken to establish the type of tumour and the best method of treatment.
It is crucial that these tests are conducted as early as possible to have the best possible brain cancer prognosis. If caught too late, it is likely that the tumour will have spread. At these later stages of development, surgical operation may only remove the localised tumour in the brain, but it may occur again later.
What Might Be Grounds For A Brain Cancer Misdiagnosis Claim?
If a GP or specialist fails to diagnose or correctly treat a brain tumour, 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 a brain tumour:
Firstly, there may be a delay in diagnosis of the tumour, 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 brain tumours left unchecked. Delays are particularly significant when dealing with benign tumours as they are more likely to be curable and often the size of the tumour and the ease with which it can be removed relate directly to how good the brain cancer prognosis provided is.
Once a diagnosis of a brain tumour 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 and can cause a benign tumour to become malignant, 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. Brain surgery is very complicated, and complications such as a stroke or damage to other parts of the brain 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 brain 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 Brain Cancer Misdiagnosis Claims Experience
Errors arising from cases of brain 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.
Brain Cancer Resources
Our guide, How Will A Cancer Misdiagnosis Change Your Life? was written to provide information and guidance on how to deal with a cancer misdiagnosis, as well as highlighting the occurrence rates of these errors due to an overworked and underfunded NHS.
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.
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.