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Six-figure settlement for delayed diagnosis of sarcoma

A six-figure settlement has been achieved for a 44-year-old woman (Miss X) who sustained life changing facial injuries after an eight-month delay in diagnosing a sarcoma, a type of cancer, at West Suffolk Hospital.

Posted on 21 October 2019

In February 2013, Miss X developed left sided facial numbness, which also affected the lip on the left side of her mouth. Initially, she considered that the numbness related to her teeth or sinus – she attended a dentist who carried out an examination and took X-rays, finding no symptoms.  He advised her to see a doctor.   She attended her GP, who referred her to the Neurologists at West Suffolk Hospital in May 2013.  

In July 2013, Miss X attended West Suffolk Hospital for an appointment with a neurologist.  He examined her and diagnosed a left trigeminal neuropathy.  He arranged further blood tests and an MRI brain scan to rule out any structural underlying lesion.  

In early August 2013, the MRI scan was performed and reported as showing no abnormalities.  The neurologist asked the radiologist for further and specific comment about the appearances of other structures on the scan.  The radiologist reported these as normal.  The neurologist thus reported to Miss X’s GP that the MRI scan was normal, showing no evidence of any structural lesion that would account for the symptoms that Miss X was suffering from.  

Miss X continued to suffer from facial numbness and tingling.  She also developed recurrent tooth abscesses and needed extraction of several teeth.   In April 2014, she developed a swelling under her eye socket.  She was then urgently referred to the Maxillofacial Department at Norfolk and Norwich Hospital. She had urgent investigations, including a CT scan of her head and neck. This revealed a locally destructive lesion.   She had multiple biopsies of her left cheek and sinuses and was diagnosed with left antral undifferentiated pleomorphic sarcoma. 

In June 2014, Miss X underwent extensive surgery at Royal Marsden Hospital. This included removal of her left eye.  This would have been probably avoided had the tumour been diagnosed in August 2013.  Miss X also lost her sense of smell and had an altered sense of taste.  She had to have chemotherapy for 6 weeks.    

Miss X instructed Sanja Strkljevic, solicitor specialising in clinical negligence litigation, to investigate her claim against the West Suffolk Hospital.  Sanja instructed experts to review the care that was provided to Miss X and to advise whether there was a negligent delay in making the diagnosis of sarcoma and if so, how that affected the outcome.  After the investigation, the solicitors acting for the hospital Trust made an admission of liability. Eventually, a six-figure settlement was agreed on Miss X’s behalf. 

The Chief Executive of the Trust has written to Miss X to apologise for the errors that were made in her care and to confirm that as a result of her experience, a new protocol for patients presenting with similar symptoms has been devised. 

Miss X said: 

“The error made by West Suffolk has had an enormous impact on my life. I will have to live with the effect of this negligence until I die, with facial disfigurement and only one eye.  Had the cancer been caught when it should have been, I would still have my eye and would have had much less invasive surgery meaning less disfigurement.  I only hope that this settlement acts as an incentive to hospitals to prevent this from happening to anyone else as the financial award cannot make up for the daily consequences of this mistake.”

Sanja said:

“I am very pleased that we have been able to achieve a settlement for our client.  Whilst I welcome the changes in the Trust’s own policy, our client has suffered permanent and life changing injuries which could and should have been prevented.”