Settlement for delayed diagnosis of ovarian cancer following catalogue of administrative errors

Our clinical negligence team in London has secured a settlement for a 56-year-old mother of four whose diagnosis of ovarian cancer was delayed for seven months.

The claimant presented to her GP between 2013 and 2015 complaining of abdominal symptoms, pain and bloating. She was considered to be menopausal and was advised to alter her diet. While it was suggested that the claimant was diagnosed with irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), her case was that, during 2014, her reported symptoms were not attributable to IBS but were in fact early warning signs of ovarian cancer warranting a CA125 blood test (blood markers indicating ovarian cancer).

Throughout 2015, our client’s symptoms deteriorated. After persistent requests for a gynaecological referral, her GP eventually agreed to send her for a transvaginal ultrasound scan in May 2015. This scan was performed on
6 June 2015 at the Harold Wood Polyclinic and was reported to show significant abnormalities highly suggestive of ovarian neoplasm. Urgent gynaecological referral was recommended.

However, the clinic failed to send the ultrasound scan results to the GP. When the claimant made enquiries of her GP for the results approximately 10 days later, she was advised that the results were not available and that she should contact the surgery again in a week’s time.

Although the GP surgery’s reception staff were instructed to chase the ultrasound scan results, they incorrectly contacted Queen’s Hospital for the results instead of the Harold Wood Polyclinic. Queen’s Hospital duly provided the GP surgery with a historic ultrasound scan performed in 2013. The claimant’s GP misinterpreted the 2013 scan as the 2015 scan, marked the results as normal and informed her that no further action was required.

She returned to the GP in October 2015 complaining of further pain and an increase in the severity of symptoms. The claimant requested another ultrasound scan but was informed that she could not have one as the scan performed in June had been normal. The GP failed to recognise again that the scan results were actually those from 2013 not 2015.

Our client’s condition continued to deteriorate throughout 2015 until 26 November 2015 when she presented to Queen’s Hospital A&E department with severe abdominal pain and difficulty passing urine. Abdominal examination revealed a sizeable pelvic mass and a further ultrasound and MRI scans were performed. The scans confirmed an 18cm mass and she was subsequently diagnosed with stage 4 ovarian cancer in January 2016. Her diagnosis carried a five-year survival rate of just 5%.

The claimant required extensive debulking surgery as well as chemotherapy to reduce the size of the tumour. Despite responding well initially, she suffered two further relapses of her cancer requiring further intensive chemotherapy.

The GP partners, locum doctor and ultrasound clinic were pursued for the negligent failures in our client’s care resulting in a delayed diagnosis.

They admitted that had the results been provided to the GP and the claimant had been referred under the two-week wait cancer pathway, she would have been diagnosed in August 2015 when her cancer would have been at stage 3. Had this been the case, her prospects of surviving for five years were estimated as 20%.

The claimant’s case that her symptoms from 2014 warranted a CA125 blood test was denied by all defendants. She asserted that, if this had been performed in 2014, she would have been diagnosed with stage 1 cancer with a 90% chance of cure.

In light of the claimant’s poor prognosis and entering into the palliative phase of the disease, early settlement negotiations commenced with a settlement being achieved within a few months.

Lyndsey Banthorpe, a member of our specialist oncology sub group, acted on behalf of the claimant in this matter.

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Penningtons Manches Cooper LLP

Penningtons Manches Cooper LLP is a limited liability partnership registered in England and Wales with registered number OC311575 and is authorised and regulated by the Solicitors Regulation Authority under number 419867.

Penningtons Manches Cooper LLP