Medical Malpractice ­ Failure To Diagnose Breast Cancer - $900,000

Failure To Diagnose Breast Cancer $900,000
Injuries: Wrongful death
Court/case #: Withheld
Amount of settlement: $900,000

Case Summary:
The plaintiffs' decedent, 44, came under the care of an internist at a local HMO for long-standing back problems as well as a recent history of 'traumatic left breast cyst.' Before the decedent transferred her care to the local HMO, her regular gynecologist aspirated this cyst four times. The gynecologist recommended that the cyst be excised to prevent further recurrence.
During the next four years, a surgeon at the HMO aspirated the left breast cyst on five or six occasions but failed to remove it pursuant to the suggestion of the prior gynecologist. A routine baseline mammography was ordered by the internist. The radiologist reported that the exam should be repeated in three months due to the fact that he was unable to get 'optimal compression' of the left breast due to a recent aspiration. The mammogram was repeated three months later. This mammogram showed, amongst other things, clustered microcalcifications. The mammographer reported that he was 'unable to rule out significant disease' based on the exam. The plaintiff claimed that she was never informed of the results of this mammography exam which had been communicated directly to her internist at the HMO and not to the surgeon who was providing her with additional breast care.

Several months later, her primary physician left the practice at the HMO and moved out of state. Nine months later, the plaintiff presented to the surgeon at the HMO with skin distortions and an inverted nipple. The surgeon performed additional mammography and fine needle biopsy, which revealed carcinoma. The surgeon charted that he had not seen the original mammography reports and that, if he had, he would have done the biopsy at that time. Despite a course of aggressive chemotherapy and radiation, the plaintiffs' decedent died two years later. An action had been commenced prior to her death for medical negligence and was amended to wrongful death after her death. Two months before she died, a videotaped deposition of the plaintiff was taken.

The plaintiffs were prepared to present expert testimony that the failure to properly follow up on the abnormal mammography allowed the breast cancer to worsen and hasten her death. The plaintiffs were also prepared to present expert testimony that while excision of breast cysts was not required to comport with standards of care at the time, had same been done - as her original gynecologist had suggested - it would have revealed breast cancer that could have been caught at a very early stage.

The defendants were prepared to present expert testimony that the plaintiffs' decedent had earlier rejected suggested mammography and that due to the nature and type of the breast cancer, earlier diagnosis would not have caused a significant increase in her life span.
The case was settled one month before trial.