Delayed Diagnosis of Seminoma

Medical history

A 35-year-old male consulted his GP (member of another defence organisation) with a history of a 'stiff and painful neck', urinary problems and a tender and painful testicle. The GP thought that the patient might be suffering from orchitis and prescribed an antibiotic and an anti-inflammatory. He also advised the patient to return if the condition had not improved in the next three weeks, saying that he would then be referred to hospital. The patient duly returned, and the GP again considered that the patient was still suffering from orchitis and prescribed another course of antibiotics.

About a week later the patient consulted the other GP in the practice (MDU member), who found that the patient's testicle was still inflamed, but that it had a cystic feel in the scrotum. He attempted to aspirate the testicle but stopped because of the pain. No fluid was aspirated. The patient was prescribed another course of antibiotics and told to return in a few days. At this visit the GP noted that there was 'improvement', and the patient was advised to continue with the treatment and to return if the symptoms persisted.

Four months passed, however, before the patient again consulted the second GP, who found that the testicle was swollen, no lymph glands were palpable and the testicle had a 'rather heavier, solid feeling'. The patient was referred to a consultant surgeon, who diagnosed a testicular seminoma. This was treated by orchidectomy and radiotherapy.

Negligence Alleged

The patient alleged negligence by both GPs, claiming that they had failed to treat him appropriately and had therefore delayed the diagnosis of his cancer.

Expert Opinion

The independent experts (a GP and an urologist) consulted by the MDU agreed that both GPs had failed in their duty of care to the patient, who should have been referred to a specialist at either the second or third visit. Further expert opinion showed, however, that the delay had not affected the patient's prognosis. The case was settled out of court by a payment of £2,500 (60 per cent MDU; 40 per cent another defence organisation).

This page was correct at publication on 01/01/2002. Any guidance is intended as general guidance for members only. If you are a member and need specific advice relating to your own circumstances, please contact one of our advisers.