Sarcoma – When might there be a medical negligence claim.
We have had a number of recent enquiries from people who have been diagnosed with a sarcoma. Figures suggest that each year in Ireland approximately 200 people are diagnosed with a Sarcoma. Worryingly, sarcomas are the most misdiagnosed and under reported types of cancer. A sarcoma can grow for years without the appropriate tests being carried out or the tumor being misdiagnosed.
What is a Sarcoma?
A sarcoma is a type of cancer that starts in tissues like bone or muscle. Bone and soft tissue sarcomas are the main types of sarcoma. Soft tissue sarcomas can develop in soft tissues like fat, muscle, nerves, fibrous tissues, blood vessels, or deep skin tissues. They can be found in any part of the body. There are in or around 100 different types of soft tissue sarcomas. The main type of bone sarcoma is an osteosarcoma.
What are the Symptoms of a Sarcoma?
Sarcomas rarely cause symptoms in the early stages. The first sign of a sarcoma in an arm, leg, or torso may be a painless lump or swelling. People with a sarcoma that starts in the abdomen may not have any symptoms, or they may have pain or a sense of fullness.
Because sarcoma can develop in flexible, elastic tissues or deep spaces in the body, the tumor can often push normal tissue out of its way as it grows. Therefore, a sarcoma may grow quite large before it causes symptoms. Eventually, it may cause pain as the growing tumor begins to press against nerves and muscles.
Sarcomas that start in other parts of the body may cause other symptoms or signs. For example, sarcomas in the uterus can cause uterine bleeding or an increase in the size of the uterus. Tumors that start in the heart or a lung may cause breathing problems or pain in the chest.
What are the Types of Treatment?
Surgery is a common treatment for soft tissue sarcoma. Surgery generally involves removing the cancer and some healthy tissue surrounding it. When soft tissue sarcoma affects the arms and legs, radiation and chemotherapy may be considered to shrink the tumor to avoid amputation. Some Sarcomas should not be surgically removed while others should be removed immediately to avoid chemotherapy or radiation. As some soft tissue sarcomas are rare there are a number of clinical trials ongoing at present. It is of the utmost importance that a Sarcoma tumor is managed by an expert sarcoma multi-disciplinary team. The MDT for Sarcoma in Ireland is located at St. Vincent’s Hospital in Dublin.
When might there be a clinical negligence claim?
Fortunately, most children and adults receive appropriate medical care. However, sometimes medical mistakes are made that result in the cancer developing or spreading which makes it more difficult to treat. For some there is a direct causal link between the staging of their cancer, their treatment and success following treatment which may have been affected by negligent treatment that they received.
A clinical negligence claim may be successful if there has been a misdiagnosis or delay in diagnosis or there was an error in treatment or surgery which has caused an injury to an individual.
Questions I may typically consider when dealing with a medical negligence enquiry include:
- Did the GP or specialist appropriately identify and respond to the individual’s symptoms?
- Was there a failure by the GP or specialist to refer the patient for further investigations in sufficient time?
- Was appropriate treatment offered?
- Was there a failure to provide the correct surgery or was an error performed in surgery?
- Was there a delay in carrying out appropriate tests such as an x-ray, an MRI scan and CT scan and were the results of such tests interpreted correctly?
- Were the histology tests carried out appropriately and were the results of such tests interpreted correctly?
Such questions are significant because any delay in the treatment or a misdiagnosis of a sarcoma tumour, an error in treatment or surgery could result in complications for the patient. Such complications include an exacerbation of the cancer itself, prolonged recovery periods and sometimes even death due to a failure to act earlier. We consult medical experts in the relevant fields to assess whether or not someone has suffered an injury due to negligent treatment. If you feel you or a family member would like advice on what is involved in investigating a medical negligence claim please contact us at the Freephone number below.