Medical Verdicts

Delayed diagnosis leads to stage IV breast cancer


<court>Richmond County (NY) Supreme Court</court>

A 41-year-old woman underwent a mammogram and sonogram. The mammogram was normal while the sonogram revealed 3 small cysts. One year later, she went to an Ob/Gyn for a breast exam and no abnormalities were discovered.

Two years after that, the patient felt a mass in her left breast tissue. A biopsy revealed stage IV breast cancer that had spread to her lymph nodes, sternum, and sacrum bone structures. Over the next 8 months the cancer spread through 15 sites in her bones, lungs, and right breast. She continues to be treated with chemotherapy.

In suing, the woman claimed that the physician told her the cysts revealed by the sonogram were benign and that a follow-up mammogram and sonogram were not recommended. She further argued that had the breast cancer been diagnosed 2 years earlier, she would have had an 85% to 95% cure rate.

The physician contended that he did indeed recommend that the patient get a follow-up mammogram and sonogram, and continue to perform monthly self-exams. The physician further argued that the cysts shown in the sonogram were benign and unrelated to the cancer. In addition, the doctor claimed that had the patient not missed a yearly follow-up visit and mammogram, the breast cancer would have been diagnosed earlier.

The jury found that while the physician did indeed order a follow-up mammogram and sonogram, it was his responsibility to ensure the patient completed the tests as ordered.

  • The jury awarded the plaintiff $15 million, which was subsequently settled for a confidential amount.

The cases presented here were compiled by Lewis L. Laska, editor of Medical Malpractice Verdicts, Settlements & Experts. While there are instances when the available information is incomplete, these cases represent the types of clinical situations that typically result in litigation.

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