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    Detecting abnormalities, documenting options

    Alleged failure to detect fetal abnormalities earlier in pregnancy, and other cases.


    Claim of delay in diagnosis of breast cancer

    A New York woman in her fifties learned she had breast cancer and underwent a bilateral mastectomy, chemotherapy and radiation. The cancer was found in the same spots as microcalcifications that were seen on a mammogram 1 year earlier but, at that time the radiologist did not think the microcalcifications necessitated further testing.

    The patient sued the radiologist and alleged he failed to timely diagnose her cancer, that his supervisors failed to properly oversee him, and that her mammogram suggested possible cancer and further testing should have been done at that time. She claimed if the cancer had been detected a year earlier she could have undergone a less-invasive treatment. She also claimed she had a family history of cancer which presented another reason for her mammogram to have been taken more seriously.

    Related: Failure to recommend genetic testing in breast cancer

    The radiologist argued that the patient had dense breasts that contained a large amount of fibroglandular tissue which reduced the sensitivity and reliability of mammograms. He claimed he properly interpreted the mammogram and that it had not changed from an earlier mammogram that had revealed 1 or 2 benign calcifications which did not require further screening. The jury returned a defense verdict after deliberating 3 hours at the conclusion of a 10-day trial.

    Claim of unnecessary hysterectomy

    A 41-year-old Pennsylvania woman who had been diagnosed with endometrial cancer underwent a robot-assisted hysterectomy and lymph node dissection performed by her gynecologist. Shortly after her diagnosis, at the consultation with her gynecologist, she had signed a “consent to surgery/anesthesia” form, in which she agreed to the operation or other procedures. After the surgery was performed the patient learned that the pathology department determined that the endometrial samples were “pre-cancerous” and that the gynecologist did not inform her of this fact and went ahead with the operation. The pathology report from the specimens taken during the operation showed that there was no evidence of cancer.

    The woman sued the gynecologist alleging he was negligent for failing to inform the patient of her pathology results and for performing unnecessary surgery which caused long-term consequences. She claimed the standard of care was violated because the physician failed to rely on the pathology results of ‘pre-cancerous’ cells and thus recommended she undergo a hysterectomy, which was not required.

    The gynecologist asserted that he was aware of the pathology results and so was the patient. They had discussed the results and the surgery was offered to the patient as an option. She had consented to it, which was reasonable in that she previously had a report of “pre-cancerous” cells which could evolve into cancer any time. The jury returned a defense verdict at the conclusion of a 4-day trial.

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