Lung Cancer Diagnosis Delay: $1M Settlement
2015 Medical Malpractice Trial Report
Delay in diagnosis, 54-year-old man dies from inoperable lung cancer
In August 2009, the plaintiff’s decedent underwent a shoulder MRI to evaluate a lingering shoulder injury. Before the actual MRI images of his shoulder were taken, “scout” films of the torso were taken, which captured a portion of the plaintiff’s decedent’s right lung and showed evidence of a mass in the right upper lobe. However, the defendant radiologist who interpreted the shoulder MRI failed to report the right upper lobe mass.
Five and a half months later, in February 2010, the plaintiff’s decedent underwent a chest x-ray and a chest CT scan after coughing up blood. The chest imaging revealed the same lung mass that had appeared on the August 2009 scout films; however, by February 2010 the mass had doubled in size and was invading nearby structures. Pathology confirmed a poorly differentiated, Stage 3B, squamous cell non-small cell lung cancer. Because the cancer had invaded nearby structures, including the right main pulmonary artery, trachea, bronchus, and superior vena cava, it was deemed inoperable.
Despite aggressive cancer therapy, the cancer continued to progress. In December 2010, the plaintiff’s decedent was diagnosed with brain metastasis. On 4/17/11, he died from his metastatic lung cancer.
The plaintiff’s radiology expert was prepared to testify at trial that the defendant deviated from the accepted standard of care when he failed to report the lung mass on the scout films from the August 2009 shoulder MRI. The plaintiff’s oncology expert was prepared to testify that the 5-6 month delay in diagnosis allowed the cancer to grow substantially and to invade nearby structures, thereby significantly worsening his prognosis and diminishing the opportunity for cure.
The defense claimed that the standard of care did not require the defendant radiologist to review the scout films because scout films are not used in day to day practice for diagnostic purposes. The defense claimed that the scout films were only used to confirm that the patient was properly positioned so that adequate MRI images of the shoulder region could be obtained. The defense further claimed that the 5-6 month delay did not impact the patient’s prognosis and that, even if he had been diagnosed in August 2009, the cancer would have already been advanced and the outcome would have been the same regardless of the timing of diagnosis.
The case settled after jury selection.
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