£50,000 recovered for failure to diagnose laryngeal cancer

10th July 2018 – Our client, a 50 year old woman (at the date of the negligence) from Ashford, Kent, found a lump in the left side of her neck and was suffering with a dry cough so she attended on her GP and was referred to the ENT department at the William Harvey Hospital.

Upon examination in February 2013 nothing abnormal was identified. She was reassured and discharged back to the care of her GP.

Her symptoms persisted and her GP eventually referred her for a CT scan in August 2013 which diagnosed laryngeal cancer. A biopsy was then performed which confirmed a supraglottic squamous cell carcinoma, stage T3, with no nodal involvement. There were no distant metastases.

Treatment was then provided by way of a combination of chemotherapy and radiotherapy. As a result of that treatment our client developed swallowing difficulties and required PEG feeding. She later developed narrowing of her airways and required emergency tracheostomy surgery in October 2015.

Ultimately, in November 2015, it was determined that she was suffering from a non-functioning larynx and she underwent a total laryngectomy. As a consequence, she became largely unable to communicate (though she did not undergo surgery to implant a prosthetic voice box).

She continued to suffer with narrowing of her airways, and required numerous further operations for balloon dilatation.

As a consequence of all this, she suffered a psychological injury.

We obtained supportive expert evidence which concluded that, due to our client having risk factors for cancer, it was negligent to fail to follow-up our client 6 weeks after the February 2013 examination, and that such review would have resulted in the cancer being diagnosed. The cancer would therefore have been diagnosed 5 months earlier than it was, it would have been stage T1 (not T3), our client would have avoided the chemotherapy treatment, and she would therefore have avoided the non-functioning larynx and the laryngectomy.

Having submitted a Letter of Claim, the East Kent Hospitals University NHS Foundation Trust admitted breach of duty for the 5 month delay in diagnosing the cancer, but denied causation (saying that the cancer would have been stage T2, that chemotherapy would have been required in any event, and so would the laryngectomy).

The Defendant provided a formal apology for the failure in care, yet their first offer was a derisory £5,000. Following further negotiation they increased their offer to £20,000. However, this was significantly below our valuation of the claim.

Unfortunately, our client passed away from unrelated causes in August 2017, prior to the resolution of the claim.

Our client’s death resulted in a reduction in the value of the claim, and upon receiving instructions from her family to proceed with the claim we made a revised offer of £75,000.

The Defendant then made an increased offer of £40,000, and following further negotiation they increased their offer further to £50,000 which the family accepted to settle the claim.

Alex Tengroth, who had conduct of this case, said “this was a very sad case of delayed cancer diagnosis which would have been so easy to avoid if proper follow-up had been implemented. Instead, the consequence for my client was significant injury and, although not causative of my client’s death, resulted in a much reduced quality of life in her final few years.”

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