Legal: Delay in diagnosing breast cancer

January 1, 2009

Breast cancer not diagnosed after first mammogram.

A 39-year-old New York woman had a gynecologic examination in 2002 performed by a certified nurse midwife. A lump was found in the left breast and mammograms of both breasts were done. Three months later, the patient returned and was told that the mammograms had been normal. One year after the first exam, the patient was diagnosed with stage IIB cancer of the left breast. She underwent a mastectomy, chemotherapy, and radiation.

The woman sued and claimed that cancer should have been diagnosed in 2002 when the lump was found, which would have reduced the chance of recurrence.

The defense claimed that the mammogram had indicated that the lump was benign and that the records from the first visit were not available at the follow-up visit and so she did not remember that the mammograms were ordered in response to the detection of a lump. A $2 million settlement was reached.