Pennsylvania residents may have heard about a couple winning a case that they filed against a government hospital for its failure to diagnose breast cancer that was in its early stage. The couple was awarded over $5 million by the judge presiding over the case in U.S. District Court.
According to the lawsuit complaint, a woman went in for checkup after identifying suspicious lumps in her breast in the middle of 2008. The woman apparently had a cancerous tumor growing in her breast that at the time would have been classified as being in stage 1.
During the checkup the woman had both a mammogram and ultrasound screening conducted. The Chief of Mammography Services at the hospital did not believe that the test results showed any signs of tumors present and sent a letter to the patient indicating as such, but also stated in the letter that she recommended a referral to the General Surgery Clinic for a follow-up just to be sure.
However, the letter was never actually sent out. It was instead placed in the woman’s patient file with the rest of her health related documents. After waiting for several months and not hearing back about the results of her previous screenings the patient went in again for a second time. After being examined again, the nurse again ordered both a diagnostic mammography and ultrasound. However, the order was revised such that only an ultrasound was performed on her left breast. The test came back negative for any tumors and no follow up screenings were ordered after that.
Then, in early 2010, she went back in again for yet another mammogram and this time a biopsy proved conclusively that she had a cancerous tumor growing in her right breast. According to her oncologist the tumor was stage 3 and classified as triple negative, which is considered particularly aggressive. After undergoing chemotherapy, a double mastectomy and breast reconstruction, she was given a 60 percent chance that her cancer would return in the next five to seven years. Furthermore, it would most likely be fatal. It was opinioned that had the tumor been treated when the patient first went in for a screening it would most likely have been curable. The government hospital was found negligent in failing to diagnose her breast cancer in a timely fashion. The hospital did not contest the issue.
Source: The Tennessean, “Clarksville couple awarded $5.2M after diagnosis errors,” April 24, 2014