Breast Cancer Malpractice Case Settles for $1.9M

2015 Medical Malpractice Trial Report

Lawsuit claims breast surgeon fell below standard of care when failing to perform sentinel node dissection at time of mastectomy

The plaintiff’s decedent was a 46-year-old woman who died from metastatic breast cancer.

In November 2003, at age 40, she was diagnosed with ductal carcinoma in situ (DCIS) of her left breast with multi focal disease. She underwent a stereotactic core biopsy of clustered microcalcifications in the lower outer quadrant. Pathology revealed DCIS in two of three specimens. One of the specimens was determined to be DCIS, grade 2/3 papillary and cribriform patterns with necrosis. Hormone analysis on one block demonstrated that it was ER positive and PR negative.

A mammogram performed on 12/11/03 demonstrated a suspicious group of calcifications in the upper outer quadrant. Spot compression views confirmed the suspicious grouped pleomorphic calcifications in the upper outer quadrant of the left breast and the radiologist suggested stereotactic core biopsy. Stereotactic core biopsy of the suspicious abnormality in the upper outer quadrant of the left breast was never performed. Rather, the surgeon recommended a left breast mastectomy together with a left sentinel node biopsy to be done at the same time as the mastectomy.

The patient then consulted with the defendant surgeon in January, 2004 who decided upon a plan for a left simple mastectomy, to include one or two of the lower chain of lymph nodes. Following an oncology consult, the patient opted for bilateral mastectomies.

On February 10, 2004, the defendant performed bilateral mastectomies. Sentinel node dissection and biopsy were not performed. No nodal tissue was obtained.

Three years later, a PET scan showed spread of the cancer to the lymph nodes and spine. The patient underwent multiple surgical procedures, chemotherapy and radiation to battle her extensive disease. She died from metastatic disease on July 6, 2012.

The plaintiff claimed the defendant fell below the accepted standard of care by failing to perform a sentinel node dissection at the time of the mastectomy. The defendant claimed that she complied with the standard of care, and no further treatment was warranted.

The defendant also noted that a non-party treating oncologist concurred with her treatment plan. Finally, it was suggested that this was an usual form of cancer such that any delay in diagnosis of spread did not have any effect on the ultimate outcome.

The medical malpractice case settled shortly before trial at mediation for $1,950,000.

Lubin & Meyer attorneys Andrew C. Meyer, Jr. and William J. Thompson represented the plaintiff in this medical malpractice lawsuit.

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