$95,000 settlement at mediation following delayed diagnosis of skin cancer

PUBLISHED 14 Jul 2014

Our client, a man in his late seventies, consulted a GP in March of 2011 about a large lump that had developed on his hand that he was understandably, given his age, quite concerned about. He was advised by his GP that the lump was not cancerous and that it would soon disappear. Despite the doctors cursory assurance that he should not worry, our client paid close attention to this lump and continued to consult this GP to ensure that if the lump was cancerous, it would be dealt with quickly – as recommended by the Cancer Council. The GP did not share his concerns. These consultations occurred frequently over several months. During this period the lump began to grow, it became infected and emitted an odour. Immediately, our client went back to the GP and was assured that he had nothing to worry about as the lump was about to fall off. Our client’s consultations with the GP increased during this period of time, as did his concern for his health.

The lump did not fall off, instead it continued to grow and began to bleed, causing our client severe pain. Our client decided it was in his best interests to attend hospital for the pain and bleeding associated but was referred back to the GP for treatment and consultation. This referral did not occur before an anaesthetist at the hospital took a photo of the growth and remarked that he had never seen one so severe before. Once more, following a referral from the hospital, his GP advised him that he had nothing to be concerned about.

At no point did his GP attempt to have the lump removed, conduct a biopsy on the lump to test whether or not is was cancerous or have any scans performed on the lump to determine if it was cancerous. Frustrated with the lack of a response from the GP our client requested he be sent to a specialist for a second opinion in July 2012 – 16 months after he had expressed his initial concerns.

In October 2012 he consulted a specialist where it was quickly established that the lump, contrary to the GP’s assurances, was in fact cancerous. Surgery was performed on the lump in November of 2012, however due to the time elapsed the lump had grown quite significantly, meaning our client now had to have a skin graft and a significant operation on his hand to remove the lump.

Following this operation, he approached Gerard Malouf and Partners where Leslie Abboud, a senior solicitor with over 30 years of experience, took carriage of this matter. Mr Abboud, and his specialised medical negligence team, obtained medical expert reports and opinions that established a presence of negligence by our client’s GP. In their investigations it was established that non-melanoma skin cancers were the most popular of all cancers in Australia, and the specific type of cancer that our client suffered from was the second most common form of skin cancer in Australia. It was established that his particular type of cancer normally grows over weeks to months and may spread if not treated, with a delay in diagnosis potentially compromising the chance for a cure and increasing the chance of a local reoccurrence of cancer as well as axillary metastasis. It was considered by our panel of experts that early treatment is essential to ensure the patient has the best chance of a cure and that any GP working in Australia should be aware of the high incidence of skin cancer, and thus, the importance in ensuring any suspicious lump is investigated and treated early.

In our client’s case he was left waiting for 18 months from when he was initially concerned about a lump developing, and when this lump was eventually removed. It was established that the GP was negligent in failing to act to test the lump and remove it given the high rate of skin cancer in Australia, the nature of the lump and the persistent concerns of our client. This failure meant our client was required to have invasive surgery for removal of the lump as well as a skin graft. He now faces an increased risk of reoccurrence of cancer and was required to have radiotherapy and undergo review every 3 months. 

In an attempt to obtain some comfort for our client in this unfortunate situation Mr Abboud, and his experienced team, aggressively pursued this matter. After negotiation between the parties, including the specialist barrister briefed in this matter and instructed by Mr Abboud, the matter was fortunately settled in mediation without having to progress to trial. A settlement of $95,000 was obtained and our client was able to move on with his life and put this unfortunate event behind him.

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