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Delay in Diagnosing Lymphoma

Delay in Diagnosing Lymphoma

As with all types of cancer, lymphoma carries a better prognosis if diagnosed and treated in the early stages.

If medical practitioners failed to notice the signs of lymphoma, meaning your diagnosis and treatment was significantly delayed, you should talk to a solicitor about what action you can take.

If substandard medical care has caused you to suffer unnecessarily, you could be entitled to pursue a claim for compensation. For more information, please get in touch with us today. We will advise whether you can sue those responsible for your substandard level of care.

What is the lymphatic system?

Lymphoma is cancer of the lymphatic system.

The lymphatic system consists of a number of organs, all of which aid the body's immune system. This includes the tonsils, spleen and thymus. Connecting these organs is a network of small vessels which spread throughout the body, much like the circulatory system.

The lymphatic vessels carry a clear fluid called lymph, which contains a large number of lymphocytes (white blood cells). The body drains waste products, bacteria and abnormal/dead cells into the lymph fluid.

The fluid is then filtered through the lymph glands (or nodes) which are located across the body, including the neck, armpit, groin and pelvis. White blood cells in the nodes attack any foreign bodies such as bacteria, which is why your glands often feel swollen when you are unwell.

What is lymphoma?

Lymphoma is when lymphocytes within the lymphatic system divide abnormally. These clump together and collect within the nodes, creating a cancerous growth. Because the lymph fluid travels through the lymph nodes, it is easy for the cancerous cells to break away and travel to other nodes.

There are two main types of lymphoma: Hodgkin lymphoma and non-Hodgkin's lymphoma. These can be further subdivided into different types of Hodgkin lymphoma or non-Hodgkin's lymphoma.

Hodgkin lymphoma

Around one in five people with lymphoma will have Hodgkin lymphoma. The condition sees a particular type of white blood cell called a B lymphocyte become cancerous.

The symptoms of Hodgkin lymphoma are:

  • Painless, swollen lymph nodes most commonly in the neck
  • Night sweats
  • Unexplained weight loss
  • Fever that comes and goes
  • Fatigue
  • Itching
  • Coughing and breathlessness
  • Tummy pain or vomiting after drinking alcohol

Non-Hodgkin lymphoma

Non-Hodgkin lymphoma (NHL) is more common with around 12,000 new cases diagnosed each year in the UK. There are over 30 different types of NHL.

The symptoms of non-Hodgkin lymphoma are much the same as Hodgkin lymphoma, including:

  • Painless, swollen lymph nodes often in the neck, armpit or groin
  • Night sweats
  • Unexplained weight loss
  • Fever that comes and goes
  • Fatigue
  • Diagnosing lymphoma

    If a patient has the symptoms associated with lymphoma, he/she should be referred to a cancer specialist for further testing. The first step is normally to take a biopsy, which involves removing a small part of one of the swollen nodes. This can be analysed under a microscope where any cancerous cells can be detected.

    If a patient has Hodgkin's lymphoma, the biopsy will show the presence of Reed-Sternberg cells. These will not be present if a patient has Non-Hodgkin's lymphoma. It is important that doctors make this distinction as they are different illness and may require different approaches to treatment.

    Treating lymphoma

    The exact course of treatment will depend upon various factors, such as the precise diagnosis and how far advanced the cancer is. Chemotherapy, radiotherapy, steroid medication and stem cell transplants may all be used to treat lymphoma.

    It is best that this treatment is provided in the early stages of the illness, before the cancer has had time to spread. This will make the treatment less invasive and improve the patient's prognosis.

    Delayed diagnosis and treatment of lymphoma

    If the diagnosis and treatment of lymphoma is delayed, it could have very serious consequences. This is true of all cancers, as they will grow and spread over time. The only way to prevent this is with treatment.

    The consequences of a delay can be particularly traumatic with lymphoma as the cancer can readily spread throughout the body via the lymph nodes. It can also travel to the bone marrow, after which it is defined at stage 4 cancer.

    Missed cancer and medical negligence

    There are various reasons why the diagnosis and treatment of lymphoma may be missed in the early stages. One reason may be that the symptoms are vague and so the patient does not seek medical attention until their condition has advanced.

    However, there are also occasions when the symptoms are overlooked by medical practitioners. In some cases lymphoma can be missed for years either because a GP fails to make a referral to a cancer specialist, or because the test results are not properly analysed.

    In certain situations a failure to detect lymphoma will amount to medical negligence. Medical negligence is defined as an unreasonable standard of care. Therefore if a reasonably competent clinician would have suspected lymphoma from a patient's symptoms/made a referral/detected the abnormal cells on a biopsy, there will be a breach of duty.

    If this breach of duty adversely affected a patient for instance, it has shortened their life expectancy there will be grounds for a medical negligence compensation claim.

    Making a cancer compensation claim

    A cancer compensation claim is intended to provide financial redress to reflect the physical, emotional and financial damage that has been wrongfully incurred.

    Of course no amount of money can undo the trauma associated with a cancer diagnosis, particularly if a delay in treatment has affected the prognosis. However, it can help the patient obtain some form of justice. It can also recover all the finances that have been lost due to illness. This can be very important in cancer claims where patients can no longer work and support their family.

    Contact us today

    To talk to a solicitor about pursuing a claim for medical negligence, please get in touch with our friendly team of solicitors. We will say what options are available to you. If you are in a position to make a claim, we can handle the process for you, getting the compensation you deserve.

    Free, no obligation enquiry about delays in diagnosing lymphoma.

    We offer everyone a free, no obligation enquiry. This means you can talk to a solicitor completely free of charge. After this consultation you will be given expert legal advice, during which you will be told whether you have grounds to make a claim.

    Please call us free on 0800 234 3300 (or from a mobile 01275 334030) or complete our Online Enquiry Form.

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