Last updated on April 6th, 2017 at 01:33 pm
The lady, known as Ms H from herein, was very active and enjoyed taking her dogs for regular, long walks. Whilst out walking one day, Ms H, aged 53 at the time, got a small bramble thorn stuck in calf. She didn’t notice it until a few days later when she felt the irritation. She removed the thorn but an ulcer developed around it. Her GP treated the ulcer with a silver treatment and honey and it reduced in size. When she went on holiday later she used antibiotic plasters and the ulcer seemed to go, leaving a tiny white scar.
Cancer not diagnosed. Hospital prescribes creams.
When Ms H went out walking a couple of months later, her new walking boots chafed and seemed to trigger the return of the ulcer. Around a year after the incident, the ulcer was about the size of a 5p. Her GP and nurses tried a variety of treatments over next few months but nothing worked. The pain started to get worse, and was excruciating after applying honey dressing. She was referred to a dermatologist at Chesterfield Royal Hospital, when the ulcer was about 6 inches x 2 inches in size. It was deep and contained fluid. She was dismissed from the dermatologist and told to use Betnovate, hydrogen peroxide and pressure bandages. Later that evening, after applying the dressing, Ms H noticed blood pouring down leg. She went to A & E, but after waiting for 3 hours, without being seen, she went home.
The next morning Ms H saw a nurse at her GP surgery and was advised that the cream given by hospital had caused the bleeding. Nurses at her GP surgery continued to treat the ulcer for a further period.
Delay in diagnosing cancer for 2 years
After just over 2 years the ulcer had become much worse and Ms H went back to Chesterfield Royal Hospital. She was told a biopsy was needed but before she had it she found blood spurting out of her leg in 3 places whilst out walking her dogs. An ambulance took her to hospital and a biopsy showed cancer in the leg. Ms H was told she needed debridement (removal of dead, damaged or infected tissue) and a skin graft at Northern General Hospital. Ms H lost a significant amount of flesh and muscle during the operation.
Ultrasound investigation also found 3 cancerous lymph nodes her groin that had to be removed. She was left with significant scarring from the top of her right leg to her navel and lymphedema in her leg.
Radiotherapy treatment commenced but had to stop as the burns on Ms H’s leg too severe. She was also left with lumpiness to leg, and consultants were unable to tell whether it was scar tissue or further cancer – which may have necessitated a partial leg amputation. Fortunately, further tests showed it was not cancer.
Shadow of former life after delay in diagnosing cancer
As a result of delays in diagnosing the cancer, Ms H’s life is a shadow of what it was, and her family’s lives have been turned upside down too. The emotional trauma of the events will affect her and her family for the rest of their lives. She has been looked after by her children, who have had to take on adult responsibilities in caring for their mum. Ms H has been severely affected in many ways. For example, she now:
- Spends much of her time in bed or around the house instead of being out and about and active as she used to be. It takes around 20 minutes for her to get up and apply dressings.
- Has been told to continue to walk to help control the lymphedema, but can only manage a stroll with dogs rather than the brisk walks she used to have, and only a quarter of the distance she used to walk.
- Has had to give up her job.
- Is unable to do all the active things she loved as well as she used to, such as gardening, decorating and dressmaking.
- Has had to give up her plans to set up a business dressmaking.
- Walks with a limp and has to use a wheelchair or sticks to help her get around at some times.
- Gets attacks of cellulitis with a high temperature and shakes. She had a fit the first time this happened and was taken to hospital.
- Has to drive an automatic car.
- Has increased psoriasis (she has long suffered from this) in the area where the graft was taken from and any cuts to this area do not heal well.
- Has had to seek counselling to help with emotional issues.
Medical experts confirm delay in diagnosing cancer leads to complications
Knowing that the treatment she had received had not been acceptable, Ms H contacted Graysons for help and Graysons took up her case. We pursued Chesterfield Royal Hospital NHS Foundation Trust, Derbyshire Community Health Services Trust and 2 GPs for negligent treatment and delay in diagnosing cancer. All 4 defendants admitted liability, but the 2 GPs only made limited admissions on causation, saying that by the time they could have made the diagnosis, she would have needed extensive surgery anyway.
Medical experts have confirmed that, had Ms H been referred to the hospital immediately upon presentation to the GP with the ulcer, it could have been removed completely without the need for post operative radiotherapy and it would therefore have been unlikely that she would have developed the further cancerous lymph nodes or lymphedema.
We were able to negotiate a settlement of £290,000 for Ms H.