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Medical Negligence
Bladder Cancer

Bladder Cancer

If your bladder cancer was not diagnosed and treated in the early stages because of medical error, you could be in a position to pursue a medical negligence claim. Please get in touch with us today to find out more.

Causes of bladder cancer

Bladder cancer is caused usually by a combination of genetic factors and environmental factors. The NHS estimates that half of all bladder cancer cases are caused by smoking, while chemicals previously used in the manufacturing industry are also known to cause bladder cancer. A combination of smoking and recurrent urinary tract infections can significantly increase the risk of bladder cancer.

Approximately 10,000 people in the UK are diagnosed with bladder cancer every year. Rates of bladder cancer are four times higher in men than in women, while the average age of diagnosis is 68.

ypes of bladder cancer

Around 90% of patients with bladder cancer in the UK have transitional cell cancer. This cancer develops in the cells lining the bladder. If it remains inside the bladder (non-invasive bladder cancer), it is much easier to treat. There is a chance, however, that the tumour will spread into the muscle of the bladder and beyond. This is called invasive bladder cancer and will require more extensive treatment.

Around 5% of patients with bladder cancer in the UK have squamous cell carcinoma. The squamous cells can be found in the tissue lining the bladder.

Squamous cell carcinoma is an unusual variant of bladder cancer, but it does occur. It is often associated with previous bladder infections, particularly schistosomiasis. Squamous cell cancer is more commonly seen in patients who have suffered from long-standing and recurrent urinary tract infections. It is more aggressive and more difficult to treat than transitional cell cancer.

Symptoms of bladder cancer

The most obvious symptom of bladder cancer is blood in the urine, known medically as haematuria. The blood may turn the urine brown or may appear in streaks. Anyone who can see blood in their urine should seek help from their GP, even if the symptom appears to come and go.

Other symptoms of bladder cancer include:

  • Urinary disturbances, with increased frequency, a burning sensation and sudden urges to urinate
  • Pelvic pain
  • Sudden unexplained weight loss
  • Swelling of the legs
  • Bone pain

Investigations for bladder cancer

If a patient does complain of visible haematuria, a referral to a consultant urologist is mandatory under the two week suspected cancer referral guidelines.

If a patient has other symptoms of bladder cancer but cannot see blood in their urine, it does not mean that haematuria is not present it may simply be non-visible. In these cases a urine sample should be taken to test for a urinary tract infection and sterile pyuria.

Sterile pyuria is the term used to describe the situation where a urine sample shows the presence of white blood cells but the sample is found to be sterile i.e. there are no organisms. Sterile pyuria is a cause for concern as it is known to be linked to the presence of malignancy.

If a patient is under 50 and does indeed have a urinary tract infection, a referral will not be necessary. However, if there is also sterile pyuria in the sample, the urine test should be repeated, regardless of whether or not antibiotics have been prescribed. Should a subsequent urine sample show that sterile pyuria is still present, it is appropriate to refer a patient to a consultant urologist.

GP referrals

On finding excessive white blood cells, all responsible general practitioners would consider that this was sterile pyuria and repeat the sample to confirm. On confirming pus cells with no infection they would then refer a patient to a specialist for investigation of sterile pyuria.

No responsible practitioner would fail to have repeated the sample or fail to refer a patient for further investigation.

A urologist would most likely investigate the problem with an ultrasound of the kidneys and bladder, and a cystoscopy (bladder inspection). These tests should enable a tumour to be detected, if not on the ultrasound then certainly on the cystoscopy.

Delay in diagnosis of bladder cancer

A patient needs to be referred and diagnosed in the early stages to ensure the tumour is diagnosable and curable. The earlier a diagnosis is made, the less invasive treatment will be. It is also more likely that a patient will be cured of the disease.

A delay in diagnosis will mean that the patient continues to suffer symptoms in the intervening period. It will also give the tumour more time to grow, meaning the course of treatment will be much more radical. It may involve the removal of the bladder and possibly the removal of nearby organs such as the ovaries and uterus (in female patients).

Failure to diagnose bladder cancer

The growth rate of bladder carcinoma is reasonably rapid. Therefore an early diagnosis is vital, or the tumour will quickly grow and spread to other parts of the body.

If a GP fails to spot the signs of bladder cancer and refer the patient for further investigations, the consequences could be devastating. The same is true if an urologist fails to detect the tumour on any imaging tests that are undertaken.

If there is a delay in diagnosis and the fault lies with medical practitioners, the patient and their family should talk to a solicitor about their legal options. This is because it is very possible that in suffering a delayed diagnosis, a cancer patient will have been left to experience prolonged pain, invasive treatment and possibly even a reduced life expectancy. If such consequences occur because of medical error, there will be a case of medical negligence.

Contact us today

We understand that making a claim for medical negligence will not resolve the fact that you have bladder cancer and were subject to substandard medical care. However, many people say that pursuing a claim for compensation helps to provide some form of redress, and will also help to ensure the same mistakes are not made in the future.

To talk to a solicitor about a bladder cancer claim, please get in touch with us today.

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