Delayed diagnosis of breast cancer leads to $5.2 million award

According to the American Cancer Society, breast cancer is the most common cancer in American women. It affects approximately one out of every eight adult women and kills around 40,000 people annually. With the high prevalence of breast cancer, having a doctor failing to diagnose breast cancer early when the evidence of it is there is unacceptable.

For one woman with breast cancer, a recent award of $5.2 million from a federal court brings the troubling occurrence of failure to diagnose breast cancer in the early stages to light. This case might interest Kentucky readers, especially those who have been affected by breast cancer.

The case involved a woman who found two lumps in her breasts in June of 2008 and sought medical care from a nurse practitioner. The following month, ultrasounds and mammograms were performed. The results of those tests were sent to the nurse practitioner but not to the patient. The results weren't placed in her treatment file. In those results was a recommendation for the woman to get a referral to a general surgeon because while the lump appeared benign, it was palpable.

The woman went to another appointment about the lumps in her breast later that year. Diagnostic tests were again ordered but were altered or cancelled so that the only testing done was an ultrasound on the left breast. The result of that determined the lumps were benign.

It wasn't until 2010 that a biopsy was ordered. By that time, the breast cancer was stage 3, which means it is more likely to return than it would have been had it been diagnosed and treated when the woman first went to the nurse practitioner. It is estimated that the cancer was approximately 1 cm in 2008, but by 2010, it was 5 to 7 cm and considered very large.

As part of her treatment, the woman had 21 lymph nodes removed, a double mastectomy, and chemotherapy. She also had breast reconstruction surgery.

The woman was awarded $5,233,590 in damages for the delayed diagnosis. This included compensation for tangible and intangible losses.

Anyone who has received a delayed diagnosis might have the right to seek compensation like this woman did. Knowing how to seek compensation and learning what evidence to present might make the process easier.

Source: The Tennessean, "Clarksville couple awarded $5.2M after diagnosis errors" No author given, Apr. 24, 2014

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