Survey reveals shocking bone cancer diagnosis rates

The Bone Cancer Research Trust has highlighted an alarming rate of misdiagnosis of bone cancer, raising concerns over the potential for increasing misdiagnosis claims by patients and families who have suffered adversely as a result.

Primary bone cancer is rare, meaning that in some instances GPs may not have seen a case of it their entire career. However, it can be very serious and a rapid diagnosis is key in ensuring the optimum outcome.

There are a number of different types of bone cancer including:

  • Osteosarcoma – This is the most common type of primary bone cancer and is most likely to develop in the legs or upper arm bones
  • Ewing sarcoma – This type of bone cancer is more common in teenagers and children but can occur at any age. It is more common in the pelvis, shin and thigh bone although it can occur anywhere on the body
  • Chondrosarcoma – This is more common in middle-aged people and is a slow growing tumour
  • Chordoma – Usually a slow growing cancer, starting in the bones of the spine.

The Bone Cancer Research Trust conducted a survey, which revealed some shocking findings about the rate of diagnosis and is leading to a concern that there may be an increase in cancer misdiagnosis claims as a result. A survey of 394 primary bone cancer patients, survivors and bereaved families revealed that 26% of patients had waited more than seven months for a diagnosis. 13% had to wait more than one year.

The survey also showed that 26% of patients had to visit their GP or other healthcare professional seven or more times before they received a diagnosis. It is thought that this is partly attributable to the fact that bone cancer can often be very hard to diagnose as symptoms can be similar to a number of other conditions. However, this may lead to patients seeking a delayed diagnosis claim as a result.

Some symptoms include pain or aches, which in children and teenagers can often be dismissed as growing pains. It could well be the case that the only symptoms of the cancer are a pain or ache as there may be no lumps or visible signs of the cancer until the tumour is very developed. Other symptoms that are common in cancer patients such as night sweating, high temperatures and a general feeling of being unwell are also uncommon in those with bone cancer.

It is thought that a number of steps need to be taken to improve the diagnosis of bone cancer and to reduce the potential for medical negligence claims as a result. This includes a new training module for GPs, who are likely to have not received any other training on bone cancer during their career. It is hoped that this in turn will help to speed up the diagnosis of the condition and improve the survival rate, which at present stands at just over 50% survival at 5 years and has improved little over the past 30 years.

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