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Why is there a rise in cancer misdiagnosis in the UK?

By Lauren Muir

Cancer is one of the most serious health challenges we are currently facing in the modern world. In the statistics provided by Cancer Research UK, about 360,000 people are diagnosed with cancer yearly in the UK. It is also estimated that more than 500,000 people will be diagnosed with cancer each year by 2040.

Possibly the only thing worse than receiving a diagnosis of cancer is to have cancer misdiagnosed. Sometimes the presence of cancer is missed altogether during an examination by a healthcare professional, only for the mistake to be found out at a later stage, when the disease has progressed. Concerningly, it has been evidenced that the rate of misdiagnosis is on the rise with an alarming 4 out of 10 people who have received a cancer diagnosis having been misdiagnosed.

It is recognised that the best chance of surviving cancer is from having the earliest possible diagnosis. Therefore, delays in correctly diagnosing cancer can have devastating consequences for the individual and their family.

Misdiagnosis of cancer could come in the form of giving a wrong diagnosis when a patient has cancer. It may also be that a patient’s condition was completely missed and eventually diagnosed at a later date. Cancer misdiagnosis could also mean that a patient who is free from cancer was given an incorrect cancer diagnosis.

Failing to spot signs of cancer, failing to refer to a specialist for expert care and failing to carry out necessary tests are all potential breaches of the duty of care owed to patients. For this reason, patients who were misdiagnosed may be able to take legal action to recover damages and if a patient dies due to misdiagnosis, his or her loved ones may be able to seek compensation on the patient’s behalf.

Sadly, we at Switalskis represent and support many clients and families who have suffered significant and life altering consequences due to cancer misdiagnosis. We encourage anyone who has been affected by a misdiagnosis to make contact with us  so that we can begin to support you too.

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Lauren joined Switalskis in 2021 and completed her training contract in January 2023. She is a Solicitor in the Medical Negligence team.


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