Delay in cancer treatment

March 14, 2018

If you have been diagnosed with cancer often receiving timely treatment can make a difference your overall prognosis.  In order to ensure timely treatment the government aims to have 85% of urgent referrals dealt with within 2 months of the initial referral.

In 2015/16 figures collated by GP’s show that 20,137 patients had to wait longer than 2 months to commence treatment. In fact the last time that the government hit their own target was in 2013/14 when 85.9% of patients were seen and commenced treatment within 2 months of referral; that is some 14,896 people who had to wait longer.

Some cancers are slow-growing and a small delay is not likely to lead to any significant detriment to the patient who has cancer, as it is likely that there would have been very little progression of the cancer in the time which has elapsed. For example, Carcinoid tumours are a type of slow-growing cancer that can arise in several places throughout your body. Carcinoid tumours, which are one subset of tumours called neuroendocrine tumours, usually begin in the digestive tract (stomach, appendix, small intestine, colon, rectum) or in the lungs, they take a long time to grow and a relatively short delay in receiving treatment is unlikely to cause extra harm.

Some cancers are aggressive and regardless of the delay may not have been treatable from the outset and/or would have been treated aggressively from the outset. An aggressive fast-growing cancer like, for example, small cell prostate cancer can spread quickly to other parts of the body. Because it is aggressive and can't be picked up by PSA tests, most small cell prostate cancers are diagnosed only when they have already spread to other parts of the body (advanced prostate cancer).  There may have been an opportunity to prevent this type of cancer spreading had the treatment commenced early enough but there is also a possibility that it would have been too advanced to be treated in any event.

Most cancers grow at different rates, and the growth rate varies from person to person and cancer to cancer. The reason that targets are put in place concerning timely treatment is because most people stand a better chance at recovery if treated early and without delay. 

If you believe that your cancer diagnosis was delayed or you didn’t receive timely treatment and that you are worse off as a result, we may be able to help you. Here at Metcalfes we have an experienced team of Medical Negligence Lawyers who can offer you specialist advice.   We deal with all areas of medical negligence including delayed diagnosis. If you believe that you or a family member has suffered as a result of medical negligence then please contact us on 0117 239 8012.  Alternatively, you can email us by using our online contact form and we will be happy to discuss your potential claim with you.

Website content note: This is not legal advice; it is intended to provide information of general interest about current legal issues.

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Delay in cancer treatment

Gillian Clark

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