Understanding prostate cancer and medical negligence

Prostate cancer is a common form of cancer that affects men, particularly those aged 50 and above. However, it’s not the disease alone that poses a threat to the patient's health. Inaccurate diagnosis, delayed treatment, and medical negligence can exacerbate the condition, leading to life-threatening complications. 

What is prostate cancer?

The prostate is a small walnut-sized gland part of the male reproductive system. It is located between the bladder and the penis, encircling the urethra. Its primary function is to produce a thick white fluid that forms semen when mixed with the sperm produced by the testes.

The prostate gland is susceptible to cancerous growth, leading to prostate cancer.  Prostate cancer develops when the cells in the prostate gland mutate and start to multiply out of control. These cells can then spread from the prostate to other parts of the body, particularly the bones and lymph nodes, in a process known as metastasis.

Prostate cancer in the UK

According to Cancer Research UK prostate cancer is the most common cancer in men, with around 48,500 new cases diagnosed every year. The disease is more prevalent in older men, with most cases being diagnosed in men aged 50 or older. It is also more common in black men and less common in Asian men for reasons currently unknown.  Lifestyle factors such as diet and exercise also contribute to an individual’s risk of developing prostate cancer.

Symptoms of prostate cancer

Prostate cancer typically develops slowly, often without noticeable symptoms in the early stages. 

Once the prostate is large enough to affect the urethra, symptoms may include:

  • Increased need to urinate
  • Straining while urinating
  • Feeling that the bladder is not completely empty
  • Blood in the urine or semen
  • Erectile dysfunction
  • Pelvic discomfort

These symptoms alone do not confirm prostate cancer but should not be ignored.

Diagnosis and treatment

There is no single test for prostate cancer. The diagnosis is typically based on a combination of the following tests:

  • Blood tests, including a prostate-specific antigen (PSA) test
  • Digital rectal examination (DRE)
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) scan
  • Biopsy

Depending on the stage and grade of the cancer, as well as the patient's overall health and patient preferences, treatment options may include:

  • Watchful waiting or active surveillance
  • Surgery to remove the prostate (radical prostatectomy)
  • Radiotherapy (external beam or brachytherapy)
  • Hormone therapy
  • Chemotherapy

The choice of treatment is a collaborative decision between patients and their healthcare professionals, considering the risks and benefits of each option. 

Early detection of prostate cancer significantly improves treatment outcomes and overall prognosis. 

Medical negligence and prostate cancer

Medical negligence is a term used to describe a situation where a healthcare provider fails to provide the standard of care that a competent professional would have provided, resulting in harm to the patient. In the context of prostate cancer, medical negligence can occur in various ways:

  • Delayed diagnosis: Factors contributing to misdiagnosis of delayed diagnosis may include not listening to a patient’s concerns; failing to correctly interpret symptoms; inadequate screening; misinterpretation of test results; and failing to refer the patient to a specialist.
  • Misdiagnosis: Misdiagnosing prostate cancer as a urinary tract infection, an enlarged prostate, or prostatitis.
  • Inappropriate treatment: In some cases, patients may receive inappropriate or unnecessary treatment for prostate cancer due to errors in diagnosis or management decisions.  
  • Surgical complications: Surgical intervention, such as radical prostatectomy, carries inherent risks of complications including urinary incontinence, erectile dysfunction and bowel dysfunction.  However, instances of surgical negligence, such as improper surgical technique can compromise patient outcomes.

The impact of medical negligence

When prostate cancer is detected early, the chances of successful treatment are high. However, if there are significant delays in diagnosis or treatment due to medical negligence, the cancer can spread, becoming life-threatening. In such cases, the patient may be entitled to make a medical negligence claim.

Making a medical negligence claim

If you or a loved one has been impacted by medical negligence, consider seeking legal advice. A medical negligence claim can help you receive compensation for the physical, emotional, and financial harm you have suffered due to the negligence. 

These claims are complex, so it's vital to select a legal expert in this field. 

At Tees our specialist medical negligence solicitors can guide you through the process, offering clear, straightforward advice at each step.

This article is intended for informational purposes only and does not constitute legal advice. Always consult a qualified legal professional for advice on your specific situation.

Chat to the Author, Janine Collier

Executive Partner, Medical Negligence, Cambridge office

Meet Janine
Janine Collier, partner, medical negligence specialist & cerebral palsy claims solicitor in Cambridge
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