Solicitor and Managing Partner
Skin cancer is one of the most common cancers in the world – in the UK, around 147,000 new cases of non-melanoma skin cancer are diagnosed each year, while over 16,000 new cases of melanoma skin cancer are reported annually.
There are several different types of skin cancer. Non-melanoma cancers are more common, falling into two main types:
Basal Cell Carcinoma (BCC)
Squamous Cell Carcinoma (SCC)
BCC, also known as a rodent ulcer, is the most common form of skin cancer, accounting for approximately 75% of all non-melanoma varieties. These usually develop in areas of the skin most exposed to sunlight, such as parts of the face, back and lower legs.
SCC is generally faster growing than basal cell cancers. Like BCCs they mostly develop on areas often exposed to the sun, but can also develop on scars and areas of the skin that have been previously burnt.
Both BCCs and SCCs are unlikely to spread to other parts of the body or nearby lymph nodes, meaning they are often not life-threatening. However, if left untreated these can eat away at the skin, requiring skin grafts to correct the damage caused.
Melanoma skin cancers (also referred to as malignant melanoma) are often more serious and aggressive, progressing faster than non-melanoma cancers and with a greater potential to spread to lymph nodes and other parts of the body.
Types of melanoma cancer include:
Superficial spreading melanoma
Lentigo maligna melanoma
Acral lentiginous melanoma
For more information on the different types of skin cancer, we encourage you to visit the Cancer Research UK website.
The most prominent cause of skin cancers, both melanoma and non-melanoma, is heavy exposure to ultraviolet radiation. This can be extended time in strong sunlight or using a sunbed. The risk of skin cancer further increases when someone has sunburnt skin.
Like all forms of cancer, if skin cancer is diagnosed in its early stages, treatment is more likely to be effective and protect someone’s long-term prognosis. For instance, Stage 1 melanoma has a near-100% survival rate for five years or more after diagnosis.
For some forms of melanoma, early diagnosis and treatment can be crucial, as these moles and lesions can grow quickly and spread to a patient’s other organs, bones or blood. This can make treatment much more severe and long-lasting, and reduce a patient’s long-term survival rate.
A skin cancer misdiagnosis occurs when a healthcare professional fails to identify the warning signs of skin cancer, leading to a misdiagnosis or a delay in diagnosis. This can mean the cancer progresses to later stages and potentially spreads to a patient’s other organs, bones or blood.
Depending on how long it takes for a diagnosis to be reached, this delay can significantly change someone’s treatment options and long-term survival prospects.
This form of cancer misdiagnosis will often start with a GP or other healthcare professional mistaking the differences between a regular mole and either a Basal Cell Carcinoma (BCC) or a Malignant Melanoma (MM). As noted earlier, BCCs are typically not life-threatening, while MMs can prove fatal if not caught early enough.
A GP or another medical professional should be able to identify red flags of skin cancer, as they are well-known and often clearly apparent. A cancerous mole or lump will often be:
Bleeding or painful
Growing in size
The vast majority of the time, these risk factors are recognised by a GP and the patient is referred to a dermatologist for further investigation. From there, the dermatologist can refer the patient for a biopsy to confirm the diagnosis and start treatment.
Sadly, there are instances where these red flags are either overlooked or believed to be a harmless, benign mole or lesion by a healthcare professional. If this happens and you are diagnosed with skin cancer at a later date, you could have grounds to make a medical negligence claim.
Failure to perform a proper examination
Not taking all signs or symptoms into account, such as a mole being itchy
Misinterpreting a mole or lesion as benign or evidence of another skin condition
Failure to refer a patient to a dermatologist, plastic surgeon or another specialist
Ordering the wrong test where the cancer would not be visible
A biopsy taken from the wrong location, or not taking enough of a sample
Results of a test or scan being misinterpreted or misreported
Failure to communicate results of tests or scans with the patient
Misdiagnosis of the stage or type of cancer leading to ineffective treatment
If any of the above results in a delay that changes your treatment options or prognosis for skin cancer, you could be entitled to medical misdiagnosis compensation.
To determine whether a healthcare professional breached their duty of care towards you leading to a misdiagnosis or delayed diagnosis, we will work with an impartial medical expert in the same role as the professional accused of the breach of duty.
By outlining the evidence of the case to these professionals, they will inform us what steps should have been taken based on your condition at the time of your diagnosis. This helps us paint a picture of how you should have been treated and the steps that would have followed, which we can compare to what actually happened.
It is important to note that a skin cancer misdiagnosis claim can only be brought if the delay affected the treatment options or prognosis. For example, if you were misdiagnosed by your GP, but then saw another healthcare professional a week later who referred you, this delay may not have been significant enough to change anything, meaning there is nothing to claim for.
Also, a misdiagnosis or delay in diagnosis may not be grounds for a claim if there was reasonable cause to pursue other diagnoses prior to this. This could be because the symptoms were more likely to be another condition, or the need to rule out conditions that present a more urgent concern to someone’s health.
It can sometimes be difficult to determine who is responsible for a skin cancer misdiagnosis. Working with independent healthcare professionals, including specialist oncologists, we will establish when it is most likely that a cancer progressed from one stage to another, resulting in a change to the treatment options and prognosis.
In medical negligence claims causation is judged on the Balance of Probabilities – whether something was more likely than not to be the case. Therefore, an expert will provide an opinion on when it is most likely that your skin cancer progressed to a later stage.
For this reason, we may look to establish causation of your injuries before investigating whether duty of care was breached. This is helpful because:
It helps us identify which healthcare professionals could and could not have made a difference with an earlier diagnosis, ensuring that no time is wasted pursuing irrelevant defendants
It informs us whether your condition could have been treated sooner and had a better outcome
As qualified and specialised medical negligence solicitors with over 20 years experience, we are experts at handling skin cancer claim cases.
Our credentials and established reputation mean that hospitals and trusts are willing to work with us, and often recommend us, to seek fair outcomes for claimants to receive the compensation they deserve.
Trust us with your compensation claim and contact us today to see how we can help you.
The compensation awarded following a successful skin cancer misdiagnosis claim is designed to help return you to the position you would have been in had they been diagnosed and treated at the right time. Or, when this is not possible, provide financial support for the changes made to your life moving forward.
In these types of claims, compensation is often used to cover the costs of:
Loss of earnings caused by more severe and extensive treatments
Private medical treatments, such as chemotherapy, radiotherapy, surgery, etc.
Any necessary equipment or aids
Therapies for psychological support
Sadly, a delay in diagnosing melanoma cancer could greatly affect someone’s life expectancy, causing them to pass away earlier than if the condition had been diagnosed sooner. In these instances, it is possible for beneficiaries of the claimant’s estate and those who were dependent on services provided by the claimant to continue to pursue their claim.
While no amount of compensation can reduce the loss of a loved one, it can help ease the financial burden on their dependents, and support their lives beyond this tragedy. You can learn more about making a claim following the death of a loved one here.
It is impossible to accurately determine how long it will take for a skin cancer misdiagnosis claim to reach final settlement – each claim is unique and will be affected by the stance taken by defendants and how long it takes to receive answers from medical experts. However, we would anticipate most claims of this nature will settle between two and five years.
When making an enquiry with a solicitor, if you are immediately given an exact timeline for your case or a specific amount of compensation to pursue, we advise you to proceed with caution. It is highly unlikely this will be accurate without a thorough examination of your claim and speaking to relevant experts, and could suggest they are only doing what they can to secure your case.
Like other medical negligence claims, there is a three-year time limit to make a claim for a skin cancer misdiagnosis. However, there are exceptions to this which include (but are not limited to):
Children have until their 21st birthday to make a claim
There is no time limit if the claimant is considered mentally incapacitated
This three-year time limit begins according to the Date of Knowledge. This is important in claims of this nature, as it can be several months or years before a claimant becomes aware that the diagnosis they received from their GP or another healthcare professional was incorrect.
The Date of Knowledge ensures the three-year limit starts when a claimant should have reasonably suspected they had been misdiagnosed, not when the misdiagnosis occurred.
If the claimant passes away within the three-year time period for the claim to be brought, the three-year limit restarts from the date of their death.
If you believe you or a loved one has been affected by a skin cancer misdiagnosis, the first step is to contact our specialist medical negligence solicitors at Gadsby Wicks. You can do this a number of ways:
Use the ‘Do I have a medical negligence claim?’ to submit your details and an expert member of our team will be in touch
Choose a time and request a callback
Call us on 01245 494929
One of our nursing advisors will collect your details and when we agree to pursue your claim, you will be allocated a solicitor to manage your case from beginning to end.
With many years of experience between our team solely focused on medical negligence, we provide effective legal advice at every stage and guide your claim in the most efficient, comprehensive way possible. This helps to ensure that you find the answers you are seeking for what happened and receive the compensation to protect your financial future.
Claims can be funded on a no win, no fee basis
96% of our cases are settled outside of court
All our clinical negligence solicitors are regulated by The Law Society
If you or a loved one have experienced medical negligence and would like to speak to someone about your options, our team is here to listen and advise you on your next steps.