Our serious injury team has dealt with a number of cases relating to delays in diagnosis or treatment of brain tumours and we recognise the importance of raising awareness.
International Brain Tumour Awareness Week is an opportunity to educate people about brain tumours, their early detection, treatment options, and the need for ongoing research and support services. It is also a time to show solidarity with those affected by brain tumours and to advocate for improved care and resources for patients and their caregivers. The week plays a vital role in supporting increased research, early diagnosis, and improved care for brain tumour patients.
What is a brain tumour?
According to the NHS website, a brain tumour is a growth of cells in the brain that multiplies in an abnormal, uncontrollable way. Brain tumours are graded according to how fast they grow and how likely they are to grow back after treatment. Grade 1 and 2 are low grade tumours and grade 3 and 4 are high grade tumours.
Why does it happen?
Brain tumours can affect anyone of any age, although they tend to be more common in adults. The cause of most brain tumours is unknown, but there are certain risk factors, such as family history and certain genetic conditions.
There are two main types of brain tumour:
- Non-cancerous (benign) tumours are low grade (1 or 2). They grow slowly and are less likely to come back after treatment.
- Cancerous (malignant) tumours are high grade (3 or 4) and either start in the brain (primary) or spread to the brain from somewhere else (secondary). Cancerous tumours are more likely to return after treatment.
What are the symptoms of a brain tumour?
A brain tumour can cause a variety of symptoms depending on the part of the brain affected. The most common symptoms are:
- seizures (fits)
- blurred vision or problems with vision
- speech problems
- being or feeling sick
- weakness on one side of the body
- changes in behaviour / personality
- memory problems
How is a brain tumour treated?
Treatment will depend on the type of tumour, where it is and what grade it is. Other factors affecting the treatment that can be given are the size of the tumour has and whether it has spread, as well as the overall health and fitness of the person affected.
Treatments may include:
- steroids to reduce swelling around the tumour
- medication for symptoms (such as anti-convulsant medication for fits)
The aim of surgery is to remove as much of the abnormal tissue as safely possible whilst minimising the risk of damage to the delicate brain tissue and cells. There are, of course, risks involved with surgery, and it may not be possible to remove all of the tumour. In such cases, surgery is usually followed by chemotherapy and / or radiotherapy.
What types of claims are there in relation to brain tumours?
The most common example of a claim for compensation is where there has been a failure or delay in diagnosis of a brain tumour.
A delay in diagnosis can lead to painful and debilitating symptoms, often impacting the person’s ability to take part in normal day to day life, and to work or take part in education. A delay may also mean that the tumour has grown and more extensive surgery is needed or treatment options change, resulting in a poor outcome. In some cases, unfortunately, the brain tumour may not be diagnosed until it is too late to be treated and the patient will die.
How can Shoosmiths’ serious injury team help?
In a successful medical negligence claim relating to a delay or failure to diagnose a brain tumour, we can obtain compensation for the pain and suffering experienced for the period of any delay in diagnosis. In those unfortunate cases where the person has died, we can help their family members or loved ones bring a claim on their behalf and / or for the benefit of their estate. It is important that a claim is started within three years of the negligence or, where the person has died, within three years of their death.
Specialist Clinical Negligence Senior Associate, Pam Westwood, based in Shoosmiths’ Birmingham office, comments:
“I recently dealt with a case where a young woman suffered a delay in diagnosis of a Grade 3 brain tumour. Her children were incredibly young at the time, and she had all the classic symptoms of a brain tumour, such as headaches, fits, sickness, lack of energy, sensitivity to bright light and loud noise and personality changes. She needed help from family with personal care and with looking after her children, and she couldn’t even leave the house alone. However, her symptoms, which had present for about two years before she was diagnosed, were put down to migraines, and even depression.
Thankfully, she eventually had an MRI scan which confirmed she had a brain tumour, and she had surgery and chemo-radiotherapy relatively quickly after. If she had received an earlier MRI scan however, she would have avoided a long period of debilitating symptoms and would not have missed out on so much time with her young family.
I would urge anybody who is worried about these types of symptoms to persist in getting medical help. If you are concerned about the treatment you have received, it is really important to seek legal advice from an experienced solicitor who specialises in medical negligence case.
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 2023