Sep 05 2017
The patient, a 57-year-old woman, presented to her family physician with a cyst in her left breast. The patient was sent for a screening mammogram, which was determined to have suspicious findings. Approximately two weeks later, a diagnostic mammogram and ultrasound of the left breast were performed, and were also determined to have suspicious findings. The results of both mammograms and the ultrasound were communicated to the family physician with a recommendation by the interpreting radiologist that the patient be sent for a repeat mammogram in 6 months. The family physician continued to treat the patient for routine examinations and other health care needs, but never informed her or counseled her regarding the test results of the left breast and recommendation for follow up. Twenty-three months after the initial mammogram, an ultrasound guided biopsy of the left breast was performed and it demonstrated an abnormality in the same area that was earlier viewed as suspicious; which turned out to be cancer at an advanced stage. It was alleged that, due to the delay in following up on the radiologist’s recommendation, the disease progressed to metastatic breast cancer and the patient suffered a painful, tragic and untimely death approximately 20 months after the diagnosis. Additionally, there was a potential issue of spoliation of evidence related to the diagnostic facility’s failure to preserve the initial breast ultrasound at issue in this case.