GPs failure to diagnose ovarian cancer proves costly

GPs who fail to diagnose ovarian cancer have been costing the Medical Defence Union millions of pounds in medical negligence compensation.

The Union has identified 209 instances involving late diagnosis over the last nine years and in 59 of those, the patient died. Furthermore, personal injury solicitors have lodged 71 claims over the time period that directly related to delays in the diagnosis of ovarian cancer, and these have led to individuals receiving personal injury compensation payouts of as much as £550,000.

Of those 71 personal injury claims, 8 victims received settlement, 15 cases are still going on and the others were either out of time or were discontinued. Of the 8 cases that were resolved, 7 resulted from a delay in diagnosis.

MDU Medico-legal adviser, Dr Rachel Sutcliffe, explained that stomach pain and bloating are typical symptoms of ovarian cancer, but they are also symptoms of other conditions and failure to diagnose the disease is not necessarily negligent due to the non specific nature of this form of cancer.

However, it is a very serious condition and time is of the essence if it is to be treated in time. Doctors should make sure they take steps to exclude the disease when they are making their diagnosis, as well as ensuring referrals are made in a timely manner if they believe a patient requires further assessment, treatment or procedures.

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