Tees successfully settles delayed diagnosis of breast cancer claim against Addenbrooke’s hospital in Cambridge for a six-figure sum.
In 2012 Claire Radcliffe, who was 22 at the time, discovered a breast lump. Claire, who was living in Cambridge, was referred by her GP to Addenbrooke's Hospital. Her ultrasound scan was mis-reported and a 10mm benign lump was diagnosed. She was reassured and discharged.
In April 2014, Claire noticed that she was very fatigued and that one of her nipples had become inverted. She visited her GP who again referred her to Addenbrooke’s. This time, she was diagnosed as having a 10cm invasive cancer, which had spread to her lymph nodes. Claire underwent radiotherapy, chemotherapy and a double mastectomy, with immediate reconstruction. She was also put on hormone treatment.
Delayed diagnosis of breast cancer
Had Claire been diagnosed at the time of the first scan, the doctors would have been able to treat the cancer by removing the lump. She would not have had the double mastectomy or reconstructive surgery. The cancer would not have spread to the lymph nodes and so she would not have needed such extensive chemotherapy and radiotherapy. She would have had a 95% chance of a cure. The approximately 17-month delay, however, has substantially increased her risk of recurrence.
After a four-year legal case against Addenbrooke’s brought by Tees, Claire has been awarded a six figure settlement. Because there is now a significant risk of the cancer recurring in the future, if this were to happen, Claire will be able to seek further compensation. Claire would love to have children and the settlement provides financial security for herself and her family in the future – the potential of secondary cancer and reduced life expectancy, which would leave young children without a mother, is obviously very worrying.
Important to check breasts regularly
Claire, who is now 29, lives with her long-term partner, Timothy, in Newmarket. They have recently returned from an extended ‘round-the-world’ trip. Having taken a break, Claire wants to tell her story and particularly has a message for other young women: “I was very young, just 22, when I developed cancer. It’s really important that women in their 20s realise that just because you’re young it doesn’t mean that you can’t get breast cancer.
“It’s really important to check your breasts regularly and if you find any changes at all, you need to seek help straight away – don’t leave it. You also need to trust your gut instinct. You know your own body, if you think there’s something wrong, be prepared to question and challenge the doctors.”
Janine Collier from Tees, Claire’s lawyers, said: “Claire is an extremely brave young woman, and it has been a genuine privilege to help her understand and come to terms with what happened and to achieve a fair financial settlement for the avoidable delayed diagnosis and significant consequences Claire has suffered.
“Because Claire was extremely young (just 22) at initial presentation, the Trust Protocol limited the investigations to a physical examination and an ultrasound scan. The scan was misreported as normal and so a biopsy was not performed. The Trust has apologised and has admitted that it was a mistake not to perform a biopsy and that this would have led to the cancer being diagnosed earlier.
“We are pleased that the Breast Imaging team have now reviewed and discussed Claire’s case and have taken the opportunity to learn from the error to reduce the chance of this happening again in the future.
“The NHS is clearly very stretched and overall does a fantastic job, but cases such as Claire’s highlight real opportunities for learning to improve outcomes for patients in the future.”
This case was featured on the BBC website, where you can find out more about Claire’s journey.