A 67-year-old man has been told he's dying of bowel cancer two years after a doctor misread his CT scan.

Instead of being told the 5.5cm mass inside his bowel was cancerous, the man was given the all clear and advised to come back for a check-up in five years.

The diagnostic radiologist has today been found in breach for failing to correctly interpret a man's CT colonography scans, a report by Health and Disability Commissioner Anthony Hill shows.

This comes after a Herald investigation revealed more than $15 million paid in the past five years to hundreds of Kiwi cancer sufferers - after they were misdiagnosed, or not diagnosed quickly enough.


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This man, who has not be named for privacy reasons, had a family history of bowel cancer and decided to get a CT colonography scan as a precaution in September 2015.

After the first radiologist could not decide if a mass that appeared in the image was cancer or not, he sought an second opinion from his colleague.

The second radiologist told Hill he could not dismiss the possibility of a tumour but did not report this. Instead, he told his colleague that it was most likely faecal residue which was normal.

As a result, the patient was told his test results were normal and was recommended a follow-up ultrasound in five years' time.

However, two years down the track the man became unwell and a blood test revealed he had abnormal liver function. It turned out to be incurable bowel cancer which had spread to his lungs and liver.

The family have also lodged a treatment injury claim.

As part of this claim, ACC sought expert clinical advice from an independent radiologist who immediately identified cancer and said urgent surgery was needed.


The images were then reviewed by four other radiologists who all identified that "the major finding was the large polypoid tumour of the ascending colon".

Following the HDC investigation, Hill told the second diagnostic radiologist, who was found in breach, to apologise to the man and complete further training. The commissioner also recommended an audit of all of the man's CT scans.

Mary Bradley, Bowel Cancer New Zealand spokeswoman, said this was a tragic case of someone who has been let down by a medical professional after doing everything right in terms of knowing his family history of bowel cancer and proactively getting himself screened.

"We are seeing this far too often, where potential bowel cancer cases are not further investigated, leading to terminal outcomes.

"This man's diagnosis must act as a warning to other health professionals to always investigate further.

Bowel Cancer New Zealand spokeswoman Mary Bradley says these failures shouldn't be happening. Photo / Supplied
Bowel Cancer New Zealand spokeswoman Mary Bradley says these failures shouldn't be happening. Photo / Supplied

"Bowel cancer kills 100 Kiwis every month, that's 1200 every year. Everyone needs to be aware of how important it is to act quickly if we're to change this statistic," Bradley said.


In May the Herald revealed the cost of ACC claims has boomed from just $3200 five years ago to more than $5.1m in 2017/18.

The number of cancer-related compensation payouts has also rocketed from five in 2012/13 to 113 in 2017/18, data obtained from ACC shows. The total annual cost over that period spiralled from $3207 to $5,126,717.

Health and Disability Commission (HDC) reports show the same errors are happening again and again.

Of the 166 cancer sufferers who received payouts between July 2013 and June 2018, nearly half were related to failures to diagnose, nearly a quarter were for failures to treat, 16 per cent were for not following up and 13 per cent for not referring the patient to the appropriate specialist.