Prostate cancer is a real concern for the community. According to the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare, it is the second most common cancer diagnosed in men in Australia and the third most common cause of cancer death.
In recent years, the National Health Scheme (and the epidemiologists who work there) have expressed concerned about increasing costs of diagnostic investigations such as the blood test for prostate-specific antigen (PSA). They emphasise that in most men if they develop prostate cancer, it is likely to be of a form which is slower in progression and that a man may well die for other reasons before he yields to prostate cancer. As a result of this, it may be that some general practitioners are reluctant to advise patients of the wisdom of a regular examination for prostate enlargement and elevated levels of PSA in the bloodstream, by recommending a blood test as against the cost-free (you are seeing the GP anyway) digital examination for prostate enlargement.
PSA is a substance which the body makes, and which is produced by normal as well as by abnormal cells. It is mainly found in semen, but a small amount can be detected in the blood.
PSA blood test results that show a high level may indicate abnormal cells of the prostate gland. All competent general practitioners should know that an elevated PSA level above for 4.0 nanograms per deciliter may be a red light for the possibility of the presence of abnormal cells and prostate cancer.
It is also the case that some men with low PSA levels may develop prostate cancer and some with high levels may never develop it. Nevertheless, it is widely accepted that early diagnosis improves outcomes.
Believe it or not, even with PSA results well over 4.0, an otherwise competent general practitioner may fail to take the necessary steps to monitor his patient with any or any sufficient regularity, to pick up the development of warning signs or red lights at the earliest possible opportunity.
Monitoring should consist of regular review, examination and PSA testing (notwithstanding the views of some epidemiologists and academics and no doubt practitioners) to achieve early diagnosis and management.
It is not sufficient for a general practitioner to be relaxed about the necessity or otherwise for PSA testing on the basis that most prostate cancers are not aggressive but very slow, and that most people who have the condition are more likely to die from other reasons than from prostate cancer.
What about the individual who happens to be the one who develops an aggressive form of prostate cancer and as a result of diagnostic delay comes to radical prostatectomy with resultant (of course this does not happen with every prostatectomy) incontinence and impotence? Such a person may take the view that he should at least have been advised that there were options available to him for monitoring and testing and further that he should have been advised as to the possible consequences of a relaxed attitude.
Importance of getting good legal advice
The Civil Liability Act 2002 provides for the availability of non-economic loss damages for pain and suffering, loss of enjoyment of life and loss of amenities.
In a most serious case of injury, the current cap for damages is above $600,000.00. One can readily see that subject to proof of the elements of the claim, significant damage for pain and suffering, loss of enjoyment in life and loss of amenities can be available if the victim of negligence has a poor prognosis with possible permanent incontinence and impotence after radical prostatectomy.
You may have a valuable case even if there is no future economic loss, i.e. if the you are capable of working. It is important that you get the right advice from a solicitor who is an accredited specialist in this area.
We will provide you with expert advice you as to whether or not you have a viable medical negligence claim for inadequate management leading to delay in the diagnosis of prostate cancer.
Stern Law has an Accredited Specialist in Personal Injury Law who is highly experienced in these claims and can successfully conduct your case, marshalling the best experts and leading medical negligence barristers, to give you the best prospect of success.
Disclaimer: The content of this article is intended only to provide a summary and general overview of matters of interest. It does not constitute medical or legal advice and should not be relied on as such.