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Sarcoma is a rare form of cancer that starts in the bone or tissue surrounding bones, such as nerves and cartilage. Sarcoma most commonly affects the legs but can develop anywhere.
The diagnosis and treatment of sarcoma is sometimes delayed due to negligent failure of medical professionals to consider it as a potential diagnosis, particularly when symptoms mirror other non-life-threatening conditions. This can lead to catastrophic results for sufferers.
Subgroups of sarcoma
Chondrosarcoma develops in cartilage cells. It largely affects adults above the age of 40 and the most common sites are the upper arm, pelvis and thigh bone. Prognosis is highly dependant on how early the cancer is discovered and treated.
- Ewing’s sarcoma and Osteosarcoma
Ewing’s sarcoma most commonly affects teenagers and young adults. If left untreated Ewing’s sarcoma is aggressive and is likely to spread rapidly to other parts of the body. If it is caught early enough sufferers have high prospects of complete recovery.
Osteosarcoma is also most commonly diagnosed in teenagers and young people, but can affect older people too. It tends to affect the knee, thigh bone, shin bone or upper arm. In young people it will often develop after a “growth spurt” when bones are going through a period of rapid growth and development.
Due to the youth of most Ewing’s sarcoma and Osteosarcoma sufferers, symptoms are frequently put down to other causes such as a muscle sprain or “growing pains”. This can lead to delay in diagnosis and poorer outcomes for patients.
Chordoma is a very rare type of sarcoma and most frequently affects adults between the ages of 40 and 60 years old. The majority of chordoma tumours occur at the base of the spine, but can occur throughout the rest of the spinal chord. Chordoma that occur at the base of the skull are the most difficult to treat successfully.
Chordoma are often slow growing and, due to the average age of sufferers, may be misdiagnosed as other muscular-skeletal conditions before a correct diagnosis is made. If left untreated chordoma can be both extremely painful and produce debilitating neurological symptoms for sufferers, including paralysis and incontinence, depending at what section of the spinal cord they have occurred.
The most common signs of sarcoma are:
- bone pain, that gradually gets more severe (frequently occurring at night in the case of Ewing’s sarcoma);
- restricted movement in a joint
- a mass or swelling
- intermittent fever
- weight loss and decreased appetite
- numbness or tingling due to nerve compression
- if the tumour is in the spine, paralysis and incontinence may occur.
The NICE guidelines recommend that patients with sarcoma should be referred to one of the five national bone sarcoma centres in England and Wales, located in Newcastle, Manchester & Oswestry, Birmingham, Oxford or London for treatment.
Sarcoma will usually need to be managed with a combination of therapies. Chemotherapy is usually the first line of defence, to shrink the tumour. An assessment will then be made as to whether the patient is suitable for surgery. Bone preservation techniques will be used where possible but amputation, of part or all, of an affected limb may be necessary. If the patient is not suitable for surgery, radiotherapy may be commenced.
Making a claim
As with any cancer, there is the potential for a poor outcome when being treated for sarcoma.
Negligence claims in this area tend to focus on delay in diagnosis and delay to the start of treatment, which can result in prolonged periods of unnecessary pain and suffering and in the case of a patient with an aggressive sarcoma, will be to the detriment of treatment options available.
The following case study is an example of a claim we handled on behalf of one of our clients.
“We helped our client, a 14-year-old boy, to negotiate a settlement of £80,000 for a four month delay in correctly diagnosing and treating his Ewing’s sarcoma. As a result of the delay the cancer spread from the left leg to the right leg and our client had to undergo a more intense form of chemotherapy than he would have otherwise. This treatment carried a 90% chance of causing future infertility, which damaged his marriage prospects. This was culturally very important to him, as he hailed from an Islamic background.”
How much compensation might I receive for negligent sarcoma treatment?
The compensation you receive as a result of a successful claim will depend on your individual circumstances and the severity of the injuries you have suffered.
Cases such as these, which usually involve claims for 24-hour care, adapted accommodation, equipment, therapies and so on, are likely to have settlement awards that run into six figure sums.
However, even if you don’t require this level of care, if there is ongoing pain and restriction of activities the award may be in the tens of thousands of pounds.
How long do I have to make a claim?
Usually court proceedings must be issued within three years of the negligence which caused the injury. However, with cancer cases, you may not be aware of the injury until some time after. In this case limitation will run from the date you had knowledge of the injury. The limitation period for children is also different, they have three years from their 18th birthday in which to bring a claim.
How long will a claim take?
This heavily depends upon the complexity of your claim. The range is usually between 18 months to five years.
We pride ourselves in progressing claims to their conclusion in the shortest time possible, while maximising the compensation to which you are entitled, so you can rest assured you will receive your compensation as promptly as possible.
How can I pay for the claim?
The vast majority of our claims are funded by way of a Conditional Fee Agreement (“no win, no fee”).