We recently settled a substantial claim for damages for a client who suffered a delay in diagnosis of her breast cancer due to negligent errors in the interpretation of biopsies performed on a breast lump.
She was in a breast screening programme at the Royal Marsden when she reported a lump in her left breast in July 2004. A normal mammogram was reported followed by an aspiration in January 2005 which was also reported as normal.
In November 2005 our client returned to hospital for further tests on the lump, including a biopsy which was reported as showing no atypia or malignancy. Based on expert evidence, our client’s case was that this biopsy was misinterpreted and should have been reported as suspicious of ductal carcinoma in situ.
In September 2006 she returned again and a further biopsy was performed. This was analysed by the same histopathologist who again reported it as showing no atypia or malignancy. Our client’s case was that this sample was again misinterpreted, mis-reported and wrongly classified as it, in fact, showed extensive invasive carcinoma.
In July 2007 surgery to remove the lump was finally performed, three years after she had reported it and a diagnosis of breast cancer was made. Our client transferred her care to another hospital where she underwent a bilateral mastectomy, extensive chemotherapy and radiotherapy, leaving her with significant physical and psychological effects of the delayed diagnosis.
We investigated a claim against the Royal Marsden which initially denied liability but, once proceedings were issued, conceded that there had been failings in the interpretation of the two biopsies, resulting in a delay in diagnosis of about 19 months and progression of the cancer in this time. Ultimately, a settlement of the claim was negotiated at a round table meeting.