A Guide To Cancer Misdiagnosis Claims

By Marlon Redding. Last Updated 23rd September 2022. Cancer is a time-bound disease. It develops through different stages, getting progressively worse at each stage, making it more difficult to treat.

The disease can also spread around the body to other organs if it is not treated. GPs and hospital oncologists take the symptoms of cancer very seriously. If a patient is suffering from possible symptoms of cancer, they will normally be referred to get a diagnosis as soon as possible.

However, incidents of medical negligence do happen, leading to a misdiagnosis of cancer. If an incident of misdiagnosed cancer occurs, due to negligence on the part of a GP, oncologist or another medical practitioner, leading to the patient’s cancer to go untreated and worsen over time, the patient could make a medical negligence claim for compensation.

In the tragic circumstances that your next of kin relative, such as a parent, spouse or child died because their cancer was misdiagnosed, you may be able to claim compensation on their behalf.

To see if you are owed compensation for missed cancer, or late diagnosis of cancer, call Legal Helpline today on 0161 6969 685, for your free medical negligence claims consultation. We will speak to you in-depth about your ordeal and advise you on your legal rights at this difficult time.

If we can see that you are eligible to claim compensation for the injuries brought about by a cancer misdiagnosis, we may be able to provide you with an excellent medical negligence solicitor to handle your claim. Call us today, to see if you can make a medical negligence claim for cancer misdiagnosis.

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A Guide To Misdiagnosed Cancer Compensation Claims

a doctor reviewing a diagnosis document with a patient

A guide to cancer misdiagnosis claims

As mentioned above, cancer is an illness that worsens over time. If a patient gets a timely diagnosis, their cancer might be treatable with an operation, rather than more aggressive forms of treatment such as chemotherapy or radiotherapy. In some instances, a patient’s cancer being diagnosed at too late a stage might mean the difference between the patient surviving the disease and not surviving it.

In this guide to claiming for the misdiagnosis of cancer, we will explain what medical negligence is and what duty of care doctors and other medical professionals have towards their patients. We will look at what errors could be made which can lead to a doctor misdiagnosing cancer and what the consequences of that can be for patients. We will also advise you on how to make a No Win, No Fee compensation claim against a private hospital or the NHS. Whether you have suffered because of misdiagnosed lung cancer, misdiagnosed breast cancer, misdiagnosed prostate cancer, misdiagnosed colorectal cancer, or any other type of cancer, you may be able to claim. Call Legal Helpline today, or use our online claims form to reach us and begin your claim.

What Is Misdiagnosed Cancer

Cancer is a disease where the body’s normal mechanisms to control cells stop working. Old cells do not die, and instead, they grow out of control. New abnormal cells form a mass of tissue called a tumour. In some cancers, there is no tumour, for example in leukaemia which is a cancer of the blood.

There are three ways that cancer can be treated:

  1. Surgery: Surgery is the least invasive form of cancer treatment. The tumour is cut out of the person’s body and hopefully will cease to spread or grow back. This is a preferable form of treatment to chemotherapy or radiotherapy. Surgery for cancer can only happen if the cancer is caught at an earlier stage. If the cancer is diagnosed at a later stage, the patient will need to have radiotherapy or chemotherapy. In some cases, cancer may be untreatable.
  2. Chemotherapy: Chemotherapy is when chemicals are used to kill cancer cells.
  3. Radiotherapy: Radiotherapy is when x-rays are used to kill cancer cells.

Misdiagnosed cancer can occur when a diagnostic error is made, leading to an incorrect or delayed diagnosis of a patient’s cancer. An example would be a GP failing to spot the symptoms of cancer and not referring the patient to a specialist department at a hospital. Or the hospital failing to correctly diagnose a patient’s cancer. We will look into how this can happen in more detail later.

Cancer Treatment Duty Of Care

All medical practitioners, such as doctors, nurses and anaesthetists, have a duty of care towards their patients. This means that they are legally obliged to follow correct professional practices and provide the patients with an adequate standard of care. If a medical practitioner fails to provide their patient with an adequate standard of care, and the patient is injured, made ill or their pre-existing medical condition is worsened as a result, this is known as medical negligence. If a patient experiences medical negligence (also known as medical malpractice or clinical negligence) and is harmed as a result, the medical institution that the practitioner works for, such as a GP surgery or hospital, could be held liable for the patient’s injuries and have to pay them compensation as a result. In instances of gross negligence, for example, when the doctor was working under the influence of illegal drugs or alcohol, the doctor may lose their license to practice medicine.

Is misdiagnosis a form of medical negligence? When a patient is showing symptoms of cancer, their doctors must take every step to ensure that the patient receives a correct diagnosis. This may include ruling out other possibilities (for example a fatty deposit can appear similar to cancer but will be benign). If a doctor gives a wrong diagnosis or misses a patient’s cancer because they made an error or did not follow correct procedures and this leads to the patient’s treatment being delayed, causing harm, this would be counted as medical negligence. Sometimes cancer misdiagnosis can happen because of administrative errors on the part of a hospital. For example, the test results of two or more patients are mixed up. This can also lead to a patient being falsely diagnosed with cancer.

To prove that a patient experienced clinical negligence leading to the misdiagnosis of cancer, a solicitor would have to provide evidence of the following:

  • That they were a patient of the medical organisation in question.
  • That the patient’s doctor failed to treat the patient competently. In this case, missing their cancer.
  • That the patient was injured (i.e. their cancer worsened as a result).

If you claim a cancer misdiagnosis settlement, your clinical negligence solicitor will be able to investigate to find evidence to support your claim.

Statistics – Instances Of Misdiagnosed Cancer In The UK

A report by All-Can cancer initiative found that four out of ten people with cancer experienced a misdiagnosis of cancer at least once before their cancer was correctly diagnosed. The same report also found that 21% of patients said that they had to wait more than six months to get a correct diagnosis. The report urged more investment in early diagnosis to prevent patients from receiving an unnecessarily late diagnosis and their cancer worsening as a result.



The charity Cancer Research has also reported that 52,000 patients a year were put at risk, due to delays in diagnosing their cancer. This also cost the NHS an extra £150 million a year.

Between the years 2006 to 2014, the NHS paid out £44.6 million in compensation because of misdiagnosis of cancer. The payments were made to 681 cancer patients, former cancer patients or families of cancer patients who had died due to their cancer being misdiagnosed.

Reasons Why Cancer May Be Misdiagnosed

There are a variety of reasons behind a possible misdiagnosis of cancer, such as:

    • A patient goes to their GP complaining of symptoms which may be symptoms of cancer. The GP fails to recognise these symptoms and refer the patient to a specialised hospital department for the correct tests and diagnosis.
    • A patient who is suffering from cancer is given the “all clear” by their doctor. This could be because the tests were not carried out correctly, or the doctor has made an error. In some cases, it could be because the doctor failed to ask for a second opinion, or follow up on test results they were unsure of.
    • Delayed diagnosis of cancer is when the patient is given a correct diagnosis, but their cancer diagnosis is delayed more than necessary. This can be due to institutional failings such as their appointment being postponed or doctors failing to treat the case with the urgency it required. As a result, the patient’s treatment will also be delayed.
    • Diagnostic test errors: This is when a laboratory or radiology clinic gives a doctor inaccurate test results. This could be because of faulty equipment that had not been checked, administrative errors such as a patient’s test results getting mixed up, or human error. This may be judged as “vicarious negligence” where the laboratory or clinic is judged to have acted negligently, not the doctor.
    • The doctor fails to diagnose complications or related diseases. A doctor may correctly diagnose a medical condition, but fail to see that the patient is also suffering from cancer, which is likely to be the more serious illness.

How Severe Can Misdiagnosed Cancer Be?

If a doctor misdiagnosed cancer, the severity of their error can be measured using the Misdiagnosis Severity Score, ranging from 1 to 7. Assessing the severity of a cancer misdiagnosis can be a complicated procedure.

What factors are considered when assessing a Misdiagnosis Severity Score for the misdiagnosis of cancer?

  • The anatomical severity of the injuries caused.
  • Considering whether or not the patient’s treatment would have differed, had they received a correct diagnosis.
  • The pain, suffering, morbidity, threat to life caused or loss of life caused by the missed cancer incident.
  • The risk of legal action being taken against the hospital, or organisation responsible.

The Misdiagnosis Severity Score or MSS is helpful but is not an all-encompassing method for assessing the severity of a cancer misdiagnosis incident. A solicitor representing the injured party will also assess the impact on the claimant, from a legal perspective, using their medical records and other information. This will be used to value the cancer misdiagnosis payout claim.

What Are The Effects Of Misdiagnosed Cancer On Healthcare Outcomes?

Medical malpractice involving misdiagnosed cancer will result in the patient being given the wrong treatment, which can be harmful. Being given the wrong medical treatment can have a toxic effect on the body, or result in dangerous side effects. Misdiagnosed cancer can also result in the patient not being treated at all. As a result, cancer can progress to a more aggressive stage, making it harder to treat or spread around the body to other organs. If a doctor misdiagnosed cancer, resulting in the patient not getting the cancer treatment they need, they may need a more invasive form of treatment such as radiotherapy or chemotherapy, which would have been avoidable had their initial diagnosis been correct. In some tragic instances, a patient’s cancer can progress to a stage where it is untreatable, or has spread around the body, and the patient dies an unnecessary death due to cancer misdiagnosis negligence.

Misdiagnosed Cancer Claims Against The NHS

In the United Kingdom, most people receive medical treatment from the NHS (National Health Service), including cancer care. If an NHS doctor, GP surgery or hospital is responsible for your cancer misdiagnosis and the disease worsened as a result, you could make a claim against NHS Resolution (formerly the NHS Litigation Authority). This is an organisation that handles medical negligence claims against the NHS. The majority of these cases are settled out of court.

If an NHS doctor misdiagnosed your cancer, or other failures in the NHS led to your cancer being misdiagnosed which resulted in you being harmed, trust Legal Helpline to help you claim a cancer misdiagnosis settlement from the NHS. Similarly, if your next of kin relative’s life was cut tragically short because a doctor missed their cancer, we can help you to make a clinical negligence claim on their behalf.

Late Diagnosed Cancer Claims

Late diagnosis claims can be made if a patient’s cancer was correctly diagnosed, but only after unnecessary delays on the part of their GP, oncologist or the hospital administration. A late diagnosis of cancer will result in delays to the patient getting the treatment they need, causing their cancer to worsen over time. Another form of medical negligence relating to cancer treatment is when staff in a hospital department are aware that a patient is suffering from cancer but do not treat the matter with enough urgency, perhaps cancelling appointments or treatment sessions. This can lead to unnecessary delays which can cause the patient’s condition to worsen over time. If you wish to claim compensation for harm caused by the late diagnosis of cancer or delayed cancer treatment, contact Legal Helpline today.

Different Types Of Medical Negligence Relating To Misdiagnosed Cancer

There are three different types of medical negligence relating to cancer misdiagnosis:

  • Contributory negligence: When the claimant and the defendant are both partially to blame for the injuries caused. In this instance, if the doctor is judged to be 40% liable for the patient’s injuries, the patient will only receive 40% of the compensation amount they could have otherwise claimed.
  • Vicarious liability: Another party caused the injuries. For example, a lab mixed up the patient’s test result, with that of another patient.
  • Gross negligence: When a medical practitioner showed a serious disregard for the patient’s well being or made a serious medical error. In some cases, the doctor’s medical license may be revoked.

Cancer Misdiagnosis Claims – Compensation Examples

A payout in a cancer misdiagnosis claim can be influenced by several factors. How your condition may have deteriorated, how distressing you may have found the ordeal to be or how it has affected your quality of life could all be considered to help determine how much compensation you should receive.

Your claim could involve general damages and special damages. General damages will look at how the misdiagnosis may have affected you physically or mentally.

The table below shows examples of how this type of compensation has been awarded in past court claims. These figures have been taken from the 16th edition of the Judicial College Guidelines.

Type of harm causedCommentsDamages (inc 10% uplift)
Psychiatric Damage Generally - SevereThere will be a poor prognosis and the category covers a (very) wide range of symptoms and effects on the patient.£54,830 to £115,730

Psychiatric Damage Generally - Moderately SevereThere will be a slightly better prognosis for such claimants, but there will be long term effects.£19,070 to £54,830

Chest Injuries (A)Permanent scarring or removal of a lung£100,670 to £150,110
Kidney DiseasePermanent damage to a person's kidneys£169,400 to
Lung CancerLung cancers - typically in older persons.£70,030 to £97,330

The amounts shown are not a guarantee of what you will receive as testimony and personal experience all affect how general damages is awarded. This is why the average payout for cancer misdiagnosis may not be helpful to you.

We give you more information about what else you could claim for below. Alternatively, a member of our team can give you more information about medical negligence claims if you get in touch.

Special Damages Claimable If Harmed By Negligent Medical Care

The first part will be general damages which will compensate you for the pain, suffering and loss of amenity caused by the cancer misdiagnosis negligence. The value of general damages we have covered in the section above. 

Your cancer misdiagnosis payout could also include special damages. Special damages are compensation for any additional expenses caused by the patient’s injuries, such as the cost of any additional medical treatment needed to treat the patient’s cancer or the cost of travelling to hospital appointments. Special damages you may be able to claim include:

  • Medical expenses
  • Travel expenses
  • Care expenses
  • Loss of income reimbursement

Steps To Take If Your Medical Condition Was Misdiagnosed

To make a misdiagnosis of cancer claim, your solicitor will need to show evidence that a medical practitioner treating you acted negligently and this led to the misdiagnosis of cancer. You will need to show evidence that this led to wrongful treatment or delayed treatment, causing you harm as a result. Evidence that can be used will include medical records. If you are suing a private healthcare provider, information from your medical insurance provider may also be helpful.

If you have had your medical condition worsened because of an incorrect diagnosis or late diagnosis of cancer, contact Legal Helpline today. If you have legitimate grounds to make a clinical negligence compensation claim, we can provide you with an excellent clinical negligence solicitor to handle your case.

Why Select Legal Helpline For Your Medical Negligence Claim?

Legal Helpline can provide you with in-depth advice about how to claim compensation for your injuries. If we can see that you are eligible to claim compensation, we can provide you with an experienced medical negligence solicitor to handle your case. Our panel of solicitors will guide you through the complexities of the legal system, debunking legal jargon along the way, and will push to win you the maximum amount of compensation you could be owed, so you won’t get short-changed. Our panel of solicitors have decades of experience handling medical negligence claims and every claimant has the option to make a No Win, No Fee claim, so there’s less financial risk involved.

No Win, No Fee Misdiagnosed Cancer Compensation Claims

If you believe you are owed compensation for misdiagnosed cancer, you may be able to make a No Win, No Fee compensation claim. What does No Win, No Fee mean? With a No Win, No Fee claim, you, the claimant, won’t have to pay an upfront solicitors fee, nor pay any fees during the claim, making it the more affordable option for many. What’s more, if your case does not succeed, you will not have to pay any of the fees your solicitor has incurred in pursuing your case.

If your case is successful, your solicitor may seek a small contribution toward their costs. This contribution is known as a success fee and would be deducted from the compensation awarded at the end of the claim. Don’t worry, success fees are legally capped and will be set out in clear terms before the claim begins.

To learn more about the benefits of making a No Win, No Fee claim, call Legal Helpline today to find out more.

Begin A Misdiagnosis of Cancer Claim

To begin your medical misdiagnosis of cancer compensation claim, call Legal Helpline today on 0161 6969 685 or use our online claims form to reach us. If we can see that you are owed a cancer misdiagnosis payout, we will assign an excellent medical negligence solicitor to start working on your claim right away. Call us today to begin your claim. We’re looking forward to hearing from you.

Resources For Misdiagnosis of Cancer Claims

How Much Compensation Can I Claim For Hospital Negligence Resulting In Death – Our guide to making this type of claim.

How Much Can I Claim For Pressure Sores – Find out how to make a claim for a pressure sore.

Ankle Injury Claims – How Much Compensation Can I Claim? – Check what you could be able to claim compensation for.

Get further information on claiming prescription error compensation and find out if you could make a claim

If your stomach ulcer has been misdiagnosed as stomach cancer find out how you can claim with this guide.

External Resources on Misdiagnosis of Cancer Claims

An NHS Report On The Financial And Human Cost Of Late Cancer Diagnosis – A report from the NHS.

A General Medical Council Guide To The Duties Of A Doctor – A guide to the duties of a doctor.


Guide by HE

Edited by REG