Apology as three GPs miss man’s testicular cancer

The cancer was finally diagnosed at the Western General. Picture Ian Rutherford
The cancer was finally diagnosed at the Western General. Picture Ian Rutherford
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A PATIENT who was wrongly told a lump he found was “100 per cent not cancer” is to be issued a grovelling apology by doctors.

The unnamed GPs were criticised for failing to take steps to diagnose the man’s testicular cancer on several visits to the surgery in an ombudsman report.

The 22-year-old saw three different GPs complaining of a lump and pain in his right testicle but was sent home first with antibiotics and then painkillers.

It was not until his fourth visit that he was sent for a “routine ultrasound” and later referred to the Western General where the cancer was finally diagnosed – by which time it had spread to his lymph nodes.

The patient, known only as Mr C, had to undergo two bouts of surgery and chemotherapy to treat the cancer in December 2012.

The investigation found he had first visited the doctor in August that year when he claimed he was told the lump was a cyst and “100 per cent not cancer”.

He saw the same doctor about three weeks later and was given antibiotics but returned after two months complaining of back pain and saw a different GP.

By November – three months after his first visit – the swelling had increased so he went back and saw a third doctor who sent him for a non-urgent scan.

But before this could 
happen, he awoke in severe pain and was sent to hospital where tests found he was at stage four – the most serious category – for testicular cancer.

He underwent an operation to remove the affected testicle and further surgery to get rid of the cancer which had spread to the lymph nodes in his abdomen as well as chemotherapy.

High profile health campaigns encourage men to go to the doctors if they are showing symptoms but the patient said the practice showed “no urgency” to find the cause of his.

It left him worried that the delay to his diagnosis might have affected his treatment and survival prospects.

The ombudsman found the GPs failed to follow national guidelines which say patients should be sent for a urological assessment if a lump has not gone within three to four weeks.

He said: “It is clear from the clinical notes and the responses from the three GPs involved in this case that Mr C had been reporting a lump in his testis which was not resolving over a number of weeks.

“He visited the practice five times over a period of three months reporting symptoms which the SIGN (Scottish Intercollegiate Guidance Network) guidance states should have prompted “urgent” referral for an ultrasound scan.”

He said it was not possible to tell what, if any, effect the delayed investigation and diagnosis had on the patient’s cancer but acknowledged it could be serious and said he was disappointed that “opportunities were missed” to refer the man for a scan.

The ombudsman recommended a written letter of apology is sent to the patient and the GPs in question reflect on their failings.

No-one at NHS Lothian was available to comment.

kate.pickles@edinburghnews.com