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Detecting Phaeochromocytoma

Phaeochromocytoma is the name given to a tumour of the adrenal gland. It is a rare condition, but nevertheless it is one that doctors should be able to diagnose without much of a delay. This will ensure the prognosis for recovery is positive, as phaeochromocytoma can be effectively treated if detected in the early stages.

However, if medical professionals fail to recognise the problem in a timely fashion, the cancer could spread, causing further complications for the patient. This failing may also amount to medical negligence, as the inability to recognise the symptoms associated with phaeochromocytoma and order further tests will represent a substandard level of care.

Diagnosing phaeochromocytoma

Phaeochromocytoma will, upon first presentation, be extremely similar to that of high blood pressure (known medically as hypertension). It is not uncommon for this misdiagnosis to be made within the early stages, only for clinical suspicions to arise when treatment for high blood pressure does not alleviate a patient's problems. The treating doctor (usually a GP) should then look for any other symptoms that could indicate a different diagnosis. The symptoms of phaeochromocytoma include:-

  • Headache;
  • Excessive sweating;
  • Palpitations;
  • Tremors;
  • Anxiety;
  • Nausea;
  • Shortness of breath;
  • Dizziness.

If a patient is presenting these symptoms, a doctor should be prompted to test for phaeochromocytoma. To begin with this will involve taking a blood test to assess levels of glucose, calcium and haemoglobin. A 24 hour urine sample should also be taken to analyse the levels of creatinine and catecholamines. If these tests point towards a diagnosis of phaeochromocytoma they may be repeated and, if there is evidence that phaeochromocytoma may be present, a patient should be sent for an MRI scan. This will locate all tumours located in the adrenal glands.

Consequences of a delay in diagnosing phaeochromocytoma

However, if doctors repeatedly fail to diagnose phaeochromocytoma, despite a patient presenting the typical symptoms, the consequences could be serious. Not only will a patient endure prolonged pain and suffering, but he or she will also need to have a greater area of the adrenal gland excised. In some patients the tumour may have spread to other parts of the body, making it much harder to treat.

Making a phaeochromocytoma medical negligence claim

A delayed diagnosis will, therefore, cause further injury to the patient. If a delay in diagnosis is the direct result of medical error, there will be grounds for a medical negligence claim. This may arise if doctors fail to arrange tests for phaeochromocytoma, fail to correctly analyse the test results or fail to refer a patient onto a specialist.

If you believe this has happened to you or a loved one, you need to speak to a solicitor as soon as possible about making a medical negligence claim. If successful, you will be awarded compensation for the damages you have experienced.

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