Radiation professional claims hospital missed tumor on her spine

Boston Herald, December 21, 2006

By Jessica Fargen

A radiation therapist at a Boston hospital is suing a well-known Bay State health clinic claiming a radiologist there missed her spinal tumor on an MRI two years ago, and now says the growth has gotten too big to remove and is putting her life in jeopardy.

“She wants people to know this can happen to them if it happened to her, a sophisticated medical professional,” said her attorney, Andrew Meyer of Lubin & Meyer in Boston, who filed a lawsuit Monday against Lahey Clinic.

Angela Lombardo, a 38-year-old Tewksbury mom, claims the spinal chordoma, a rare tumor that is treatable if caught early, has doubled to the size of a softball within two years and spread to her lungs.

Lombardo claims Dr. Richard A. Baker, who signed off on her MRI results two years ago, as well as the Burlington-based clinic should pay for missing the tumor and make changes in the screening system so it doesn’t happen again.

Lahey spokeswoman Rose Lewis said she can’t comment on pending litigation. Baker, a radiologist on staff for 26 years, did not return two calls for comment. He has an unblemished record, according to the Board of Registration in Medicine.

Lombardo, who is program director for Suffolk University’s medical science program, said her frightening diagnosis in June has forever changed the way she teaches. “This seasoned radiation therapist became a patient,” she said.
Lombardo went to the Lahey Clinic in August 2004 complaining of lower back pain and was told her MRI results were normal.

But this May, when the persistent pain didn’t go away, she had another MRI at Massachusetts General Hospital, where she often works, and was diagnosed with the chordoma.

She has since undergone radiation therapy and takes an oral drug hoping to stop the tumor’s growth. Doctors say removing it would cause too much damage to her body.

Lombardo, whose father also has a chordoma tumor, said, “My intent is for something good to come of all this and to minimize the risk of what happened to me happening to someone else.”

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