Delay in diagnosis of cancer of the salivary gland

12 July 2023

Alice Folliss, an associate in Shoosmiths’ Serious Injury’s Birmingham office, successfully settled a claim on behalf of a 34-year-old client who suffered a two year delay in diagnosis of his cancer.
Delay in diagnosis of cancer of the salivary gland

In 2016, our client who was then aged 27, attended his GP as he had a lump on the left side of his neck which was painful and throbbing. He also reported that he was feeling fatigued and rundown, and that he was suffering from night sweats. His GP examined the lump and reassured our client that this was probably a reactive lymph node. Our client was advised to monitor the lump and return if it was persistently swollen or got any bigger. 

The GP did not arrange a hospital referral, any further scans or testing, or to see our client again. 

Our client advised that the lump in his neck did not go away, but as he had been reassured about the nature of the lump by his GP, he was not unduly concerned. 

Approximately two years later, in 2018, our client returned to his GP as the lump was still present and remained painful. On this occasion, he was assessed by a different GP who arranged an ultrasound scan which showed a left submandibular mass. An urgent two-week referral for suspected head and neck cancer was made. 

Shortly after the hospital referral was made, our client received a diagnosis of adenoid cystic carcinoma of the left submandibular gland. He underwent surgery to remove the gland and surrounding tissue which was successful, and he did not require any further treatment, other than surveillance. 

Whilst our client had a good outcome in terms of his prognosis, despite the two-year delaying diagnosing his cancer, he remained shaken by the diagnosis and suffered from anxiety and panic attacks. Our client reported that the way in which his cancer was diagnosed, and the false reassurance he had received from the first GP who reviewed him, had led to a distrust of medical professionals. His anxiety was compounded by the fact he believed that his prognosis had been affected by the delay in his cancer being diagnosed and treated. 

The claim was denied by the defendant who attempted to argue that adequate safety netting advice had been provided and the client did not return for a two-year period. It was, however, successfully argued that it was mandatory under the NICE guidelines to urgently refer the client to hospital for suspected cancer when he first presented in 2016 as he had an unexplained neck lump which had been present for more than 3 weeks. A sum of compensation was received for the client’s psychiatric injuries. 

After the settlement of his claim, our client’s wife stated:

This was never about the money, it was more in the hope nobody else gets any late diagnosis. The money will of course help and we will hopefully be able to use it towards maybe getting help with his anxiety. “We appreciate your constant communication and help through all of this. Thank you again Alice, it is much appreciated as always”.



This information is for educational purposes only and does not constitute legal advice. It is recommended that specific professional advice is sought before acting on any of the information given. © Shoosmiths LLP 2024

Contact our experts

Sorry, there are a few problems with the information you have entered. Please correct these before continuing.


One moment please...

Thank You

Your submission has been received. We'll be in touch soon.

Who we work with

  • Brain Injury Group
  • Child Brain Injury Trust
  • Headway
  • SIA
  • Back Up
  • Macmillan
  • Danielles Flutterbyes
  • Forces
  • Bens Heroes Trust

Our accreditations

  • Accredited Personal Injury
  • Apil
  • Ama
  • Clinical Negligence
  • Legal 500
  • UK Chambers
  • The Society Of Clinical Injury Lawyers