An appellate court in California recently upheld the verdict of a trial court in favor of the medical malpractice plaintiffs in a suit brought on by a misdiagnosis of breast cancer. The claim alleged that the defendant physicians were negligent in their misdiagnoses of the woman’s breast cancer, and that had the diagnosis been made correctly, she may have either been able to successfully undergo treatment or live for 5-10 years longer than she ended up living. The woman died from breast cancer in 2010, and had a family history of the disease.
The woman’s husband found a lump in her left breast in the summer of 2007. She made an appointment with her family practice physician, who examined the lump and ordered a mammogram and ultrasound. The radiologist who analyzed the mammogram did not find a suspicious mass that would indicate cancer but did say that the density of the breast could have obscured the mass. The radiologist’s interpretation of the ultrasound was a collection of benign cysts in the area of the mass.
She was referred to a surgeon who specialized in breast cancer, who agreed with the diagnosis of a cyst. He advised her to cut back on caffeine, offered to aspirate the cyst, and did not order follow-up testing.
By January 2009, she was experiencing back pain, flu-like symptoms, and had noticed her breast had changed in appearance. She was referred to the same surgeon, a number of tests were run, and she was diagnosed with breast cancer in May 2009. By that point it was incurable. The woman died in December 2010. According to medicalmalpracticelawyers.com:
The woman's husband filed a medical malpractice case on behalf of his minor children and himself, alleging that the breast cancer surgeon breached the standard of care by failing to biopsy the area in the left breast for which his wife was referred and by failing to order an MRI to detect breast cancer and to follow-up with a biopsy of the area in August 2007. The plaintiffs alleged that had those actions been taken in August 2007, to a reasonable degree of probability, a biopsy would have shown breast cancer.
The trial court sided with the plaintiffs, but the defendant appealed, claiming "that the plaintiffs’ expert’s opinion lacked adequate foundation to establish the failure to timely diagnose the woman’s cancer caused her death." The appellate court found that the trial court had not erred in admitting the expert opinion, and affirmed the verdict for the plaintiffs.