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Late or misdiagnosis in bowel cancer: what you need to know 

In Australia last year, 15,494 people were diagnosed with bowel cancer. Accounting for around 11% of diagnoses, it’s the third most diagnosed form of cancer with 1 in 13 people developing bowel cancer in their lifetime.

When diagnosed early, bowel cancer has a survivability rate of over 95%. If the cancer is left untreated, whether due to misdiagnosis or late diagnosis, the survival rate drops. Unfortunately, less than 50% of cases are detected early. Once bowel cancer becomes advanced, survival rates drop significantly.

If a doctor or medical professional fails to diagnose or misdiagnoses bowel cancer, their conduct could amount to a successful medical negligence claim. Here’s what you need to know.

What are the signs and symptoms of bowel cancer?

Signs and symptoms of bowel cancer include:

  • Affected bowel habits like diarrhoea or constipation;
  • Change in the appearance of bowel movements;
  • Blood in stools and/or urine;
  • Abdominal pain, bloating or cramping;
  • Anal or rectal pain;
  • Lump in the anus or rectum;
  • Unexplained weight loss;
  • Unexplained fatigue or tiredness; and
  • Anaemia, including pale complexion, weakness and breathlessness.

Can I claim compensation for late or misdiagnosed bowel cancer?

Yes, depending on your circumstances. For a misdiagnosis or delayed diagnosis claim to be successful, there needs to be evidence that:

  • A similarly trained medical professional would not have made the same mistake; and
  • Harm or injury occurred as a result of the misdiagnosis or delayed diagnosis.

Medical law is complex — if you are unsure whether you are eligible to claim, it’s best to seek specialist legal advice. The Shine Lawyers Medical Law team offer obligation-free consultations on misdiagnosis or delayed diagnosis cases — contact us online if you’d like to arrange a time. The team practice exclusively in medical negligence claims, meaning they have the experience required to achieve the best outcome for clients.

There’s no set amount of compensation you can claim — it varies depending on the serious of the harm suffered. Generally, compensation is awarded in an attempt to restore the person harmed to the position they would be in but for the medical negligence.

Compensation is commonly claimed for medical expenses, financial support due to lost income, professional care and home or vehicle modifications.

Client Story: Bowel cancer misdiagnosis

The Medical Law team have extensive experience when it comes to representing people who’ve suffered due to misdiagnosis or delayed diagnosis.

Our client Jeff Whitehead, who shared his story with ABC News, reported bowel cancer symptoms to his GP for more than a year before he was diagnosed. This included receiving a positive result from a bowel cancer screening kit, which Jeff was told by his GP meant nothing.

By the time Jeff was diagnosed, the cancer had spread beyond his bowel and his condition continued to worsen. Jeff sadly passed away just a few weeks after his medical negligence claim was resolved.

The team is representing a second client suffering due to a delayed diagnosis of bowel cancer.

Our client requested a referral for a colonoscopy, but his GP never arranged an appointment. Years later our client requested a second appointment, however he was placed on a waitlist and the treatment was further delayed. Our client eventually presented to the emergency department where a large cancerous lump was detected in his bowels.

We allege that if our client had received appropriate treatment, his cancer would have been diagnosed significantly earlier and he would have had significantly better chance at recovery.

Shine Lawyers – we're here to help

If you or a loved one has suffered due to a misdiagnosis or delayed diagnosis, a claim for compensation can provide the financial, care and support services needed to move forward.

With more than 105 years collective experience, Shine’s Medical Law team have the specialist expertise needed to obtain outstanding results in misdiagnosis or delayed diagnosis claims. Our medical negligence claims run on a No Win No Fee* basis so legal fees won’t leave you out-of-pocket.

If you have any questions about medical law, or you’d like to make a claim, contact us online to arrange your obligation-free consultation with a lawyer from the Medical Law team.

*Conditions apply

What's gone wrong with managing bowel cancer in Australia, University of Melbourne
Relative survival by stage at diagnosis (colorectal cancer), Cancer Australia

Written by Shine Lawyers. Last modified: May 17, 2021.

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