Bulletins

Delayed diagnosis of leukaemia

February 08, 2018

Leukaemia is a cancer that affects white blood cells.  Whilst it is not one of the more common forms of cancer it can be a very aggressive.

Symptoms of leukaemia vary, and can be quite severe.  They include nosebleeds and bleeding gums, easily bruising skin and a red/purple rash on the skin. It can also affect the central nervous system, causing seizures. These symptoms should be picked up by a GP who would then request a blood test. Leukaemia can be indicated by either a very low blood count or high levels of irregular white blood cells. Following these results, the patient should be referred to a specialist consultant in haematology so that they can carry out further tests.

These tests include a bone marrow biopsy, genetic testing, CT, X-ray or ultrasound scans. It may also be necessary for a lumbar puncture to be performed, which is a procedure where cerebrospinal fluid (fluid that surrounds the brain and spinal cord) is extracted. This only tends to be carried out where there is a suspicion that the cancer may have spread to the central nervous system.

Unfortunately, these symptoms are still sometimes missed by doctors, as was the case for Ryan Bhogal, a toddler who tragically died from leukaemia despite being taken to the doctor on 35 different occasions. Ryan was suffering with bleeding gums, bruising, a lump on his head and a rash, and yet, despite his symptoms, his doctors did not even arrange for him to have a blood test.

The Coroner gave a verdict of death by natural causes in that case, but wrote to the GP practice in question to discuss the care they provided to Ryan.  Concerns were raised about the continuity of care as he was seen by several different doctors. The Coroner was also concerned about the hospital’s lack of access to GP records and expressed an intention to write to the hospital as well. Unfortunately, as with many forms of cancer, an early diagnosis of leukaemia provides the best possible outcome for the patient, and unnecessary delay on the part of the doctors can dramatically affect the prospects of recovery.

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.

Further Reading: 

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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Delayed diagnosis of leukaemia

Gillian Clark

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