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Cancer-related negligence highest in breast cancer

29 October 2012

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Breast cancer is the most common form of cancer-related clinical negligence claim against GPs, figures suggest.

According to the Medical Protection Society (MPS), one in ten cancer claims brought against GPs relate to breast cancer.
Failing to perform a physical examination, refer, or follow up after abnormal findings, were among the most common claim themes found during a recent study of MPS cases.
However, the MPS found no clinical errors in 43% of the overall cancer-related claims studied, suggesting many claims could relate to poor communication.
A fifth of all claims brought against GPs involve cancer with the most frequent type of errors being made relating to concerns over diagnosis (81%).
Thanks to the research, the MPS has called for GPs to be extra vigilant with patient checks and referrals, particularly as the number of breast cancer sufferers continues to rise.
“There is certainly a greater awareness of breast cancer as a disease among patients than there was around twenty years ago,” said Dr Stephanie Bown, director of policy and communications for the MPS.
‘However, it can still be difficult to detect and diagnose, so doctors need to be vigilant when it comes to spotting the signs and careful in carrying out checks and following up referrals.
“This is a timely reminder of the importance of having safe systems to follow up tests and action results properly, and the value of high quality communication with the patient throughout.”