Grandmother Dies After Hospital Failed To Spot Lung Cancer On X-Ray

Widower’s Anger After Finding Out Cancerous Mass WAS Visible On X-Rays Two Years Before Medical Staff Spotted It


The widower of a woman who died after medical staff failed to spot a cancerous mass on her lung on an x-ray two years before her death says he hopes improvements have been made to staff training to stop others suffering in future.

Grandmother-of-four Norina Spencer, 65, went to Grimsby Hospital in July 2011 for a double knee replacement due to rheumatoid arthritis, and because she had pains in her chest staff also carried out x-rays.

It was reported to her that the lungs were clear but after undergoing further tests when suffering from pains in her chest almost two years later it was revealed that staff had failed to spot a cancerous mass on her lungs which was visible on the original x-ray. During that two-year period the cancer had spread to her spine and Mrs Spencer died on 22 July 2013.  

Her distraught husband of 47 years, Derek, from Scunthorpe, instructed specialist medical negligence lawyers at Irwin Mitchell to investigate her care and help provide answers as to what had gone wrong. The hospital also carried out its own Serious Untoward Incident investigation which revealed that staff had made errors with her diagnosis. 

The report, by Northern Lincolnshire and Goole Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, made several recommendations in terms of actions that should be taken to improve care and patient safety and revealed that had the lung cancer been spotted in 2011 she would have undergone treatment and it would most likely have not spread to her spine. 

The NHS Trust has now admitted that it failed to spot and diagnose her cancerous mass in 2011 and apologised for the errors in Mrs Spencer’s care in a letter to lawyers.

Zoe Brodrick, a specialist medical negligence lawyer at Irwin Mitchell representing the family said: “This is an extremely tragic case as it is clear from the evidence that had the mass been identified on the original x-rays, Mrs Spencer could have received appropriate treatment for her cancer and it may not have then spread to her spine which ultimately led to her death.

“The family were naturally devastated by her death and the circumstances surrounding the spread of her illness and wanted answers as to how this situation could happen. 

“There are serious patient safety issues involved in this case and the family wants assurances that the recommendations in the Serious Untoward Incident report have been fully carried out to prevent others from suffering in future. It is vital that the NHS Trust learns lessons from this case.”

Between the original x-rays in July 2011 and throughout 2012, Mrs Spencer had returned to hospital for follow up treatment for her knees and although she had no further chest pain, she did complain of fatigue.  She was given steroids and advised that the tiredness was caused by her arthritis.

On 21 April 2013 Mrs Spencer was referred from Accident and Emergency for a chest x-ray due to a suspected infection and further investigations discovered a large mass on the left side of her chest. A scan identified cancer in the lung which had spread to her spine. It was then that the original x-ray on 19 July 2011 was re-visited and the cancerous mass clearly noticeable.  

Mrs Spencer underwent radiotherapy but died on 22 July 2013, two years after being told there was nothing to worry about on her lungs.  

Mr & Mrs Spencer married when they were 18 and 21 respectively and have four adult sons together and four grandchildren. 

Mr Spencer said: “The past year has been so difficult. We were distraught when we found out that Norina had lung cancer and were so shocked and upset when we found out it should have been diagnosed two years before she died. 

“You put your trust in doctors to find out what is wrong and provide treatment to the best of their ability but Norina was sadly let down. The worst thing for us is that they did the necessary tests but failed to analyse them properly allowing her cancer to spread.

“My wife was keen at doing crafts and I now sell some of her remaining cards in the local hairdressers with all funds raised going to charity. She was very strong willed and refused to be beaten by the cancer even though deep-down we knew it was terminal. Three of our sons live in Australia and flew back to see her in the final months and we have all been left devastated by our loss.

“Nothing can bring her back to us but we wanted answers as to how this could happen and hopefully through taking legal action it will make people sit up and take notice and make sure that changes are made to stop this from happening again. I would hate for others to go through what we have.”