Receiving a cancer diagnosis is a devastating moment and one where you need the help and support of loved ones and trusted professionals. Even though one in two of us will receive some form of cancer diagnosis in our lifetime, it doesn’t make it any easier to deal with. It is common to have to wait for a diagnosis, which can make the anxiety even worse, and in such circumstances there is always the worry that perhaps you could have received the diagnosis earlier.
An early diagnosis of cancer offers you the best possible chance of successfully treating it. Naturally we will worry when we notice possible symptoms, and some of us might even put off visiting a GP because we are in denial or fearful of the outcome. But negligent delays and misdiagnosis – and also delays caused by backlogs – are increasingly common and are the focus of a call by the charity Cancer Research UK, for more investment in the NHS to improve figures in England which suggest we are a country going backwards in terms of timely cancer diagnosis.
Delays in cancer diagnosis increase the risk of death
It is estimated that there were 10,000 cases of undiagnosed cancer in the UK as of September 2021, and in 2018 four out of ten cancer victims claimed they were misdiagnosed at least once before the disease was properly identified. Any delay in diagnosis could be critical of course, and it is believed that there is a 10% increase in the risk of death if there is any delay to receiving the correct cancer treatment.
With this in mind, Cancer Research UK has highlighted a worrying trend emerging within the NHS. An annual target of 85% exists for the number of people who are treated within two months of receiving an urgent suspected cancer referral. But this target hasn’t been met by NHS England since 2015. While there are a number of factors which can influence this, the concern now is that the impact of COVID could set this back even more, as well as the continuing workforce shortages within the NHS.
It is felt that the backlog in people receiving cancer treatment, caused by COVID, could be extended to as much as 10 years, and the risk in having to undertake remote GP consultations also adds to this concern that people aren’t being seen and treated early enough. Cancer Research UK claim that in the last six years, up to 55,000 cancer patients should have been seen or diagnosed earlier, or could have started their treatment earlier. The impact of COVID can only make these figures worse, so there is now a call for the Chancellor to announce a multi-year investment in better training and better diagnostic equipment in the upcoming Comprehensive Spending Review.
Specialist help in dealing with cancer diagnosis delays and misdiagnosis
The belief is that only with this long term increase in spending can NHS England hope to meet its waiting time targets, but more importantly, people will be seen earlier and referred to specialists for tests in order to receive the correct diagnosis. Depression and anxiety is a natural by-product of a cancer diagnosis and this is made worse when it is found that the diagnosis was delayed or initially incorrect.
Any delay in receiving the correct treatment could lead to the cancer spreading, could require more extensive surgery or treatment and ultimately, could make a critical difference in the chances of survival. At Ison Harrison, we can seek specialist advice on the diagnosis and treatment you have received, to establish whether it was timely and correct.
Cancer Research UK has started a campaign known as #CancerWon’tWait, which follows the theory that every day counts when you are showing early symptoms of a cancer diagnosis. If you believe there has been a delay or failure to diagnose and treat either your or a loved one’s cancer, Ison Harrison Solicitors may be able to help investigate the care that has been provided and seek compensation if there is evidence of failures which have caused harm.. Receiving this professional and confidential assistance can be a vital resource at the most distressing of times, so please get in touch if you have any concerns over a delay in or misdiagnosis of your or a loved one’s cancer treatment.