Death of mother after delayed diagnosis of breast cancer - £300,000

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Death of mother after delayed diagnosis of breast cancer - £300,000

Pauline, 42

If you are looking for information on how JMW can help you to make a claim yourself you can go directly to our breast cancer claims page here.

Appalling medical errors meant that Pauline’s breast cancer went undiagnosed, leading to her untimely death and devastating the lives of her husband and children. Nothing could make up for their loss,  however after their case was taken on by Sally Leonards, a partner in the JMW medical negligence department, the hospital trust apologised and agreed to pay them £300,000 in compensation for their pain and suffering. 

Family history

Pauline’s mother had had breast cancer, her maternal grandmother died of breast cancer and several of her aunts had developed the disease. Therefore when she found a lump in her right breast she was understandably very anxious that it might be a tumour. Pauline went to see her GP who examined her and referred her to hospital.

Two weeks later at her hospital appointment Pauline underwent tests including a fine needle aspiration test (which collects cells from an abnormal area to help diagnose the cause), a mammogram and an ultrasound scan of her breasts. Both the ultrasound and mammogram results were reported to be normal but the fine needle aspiration test was reported to be inadequate to provide a definitive diagnosis. Despite this no further investigations were advised or undertaken.

At a follow up appointment the surgeon who saw Pauline recorded in her notes that she had stated the lump had nearly disappeared. This was incorrect and Pauline did not say this at all. In fact she was extremely alarmed by the presence of the lump given her family history and asked for it to be removed. However she was informed that benign lumps were not removed and arrangements were made for her to attend a follow-up appointment a year later, despite the fact that one of the key diagnostic tests was inconclusive and further investigation was required to rule out cancer.

Follow-up appointments

Pauline attended her follow-up appointment at the hospital a year later and was seen by a nurse. The nurse examined Pauline’s breasts and reported that she found no abnormality. However the lump was still present. A mammogram was carried out and was reported to be normal. Pauline again requested that the lump be removed but she was advised that it was just thickening of the breast tissue and nothing to worry about. Arrangements were made for a further follow-up appointment in a year’s time.

The following year at her follow-up appointment Pauline was seen by a more specialist doctor who examined her and was concerned by the appearance of the lump, which had now been in place for two years.

He suspected a tumour and referred Pauline for an urgent MRI scan. However the scanner at the hospital was too small to accommodate Pauline’s breast size. Rather than waste time waiting for a scan at a hospital with suitable equipment Pauline asked again for the lump to be removed. This time the hospital granted her wish and a tumour measuring 33.5mm was removed under local anaesthetic.

Tragic death

Pauline had further breast tissue removed a few weeks later to ensure the margins of the tumour were cleared from her body and this procedure revealed a further tumour in her breast, which was removed along with eighteen lymph nodes, seven of which were cancerous.

A month later Pauline had a total mastectomy of her right breast and underwent both chemotherapy and radiotherapy to try to rid her of the disease. A few weeks later she also had her left breast removed as a preventative measure as she was worried about this becoming cancerous. No cancer was found in that breast.

Despite all the invasive treatment that Pauline endured it was now too late to eradicate the cancer fully and she was told that tragically her condition was terminal. She later died after the cancer spread to her brain.

Successful claim

Pauline and her family contacted the specialist solicitors at JMW and their case was taken on by partner Sally Leonards who investigated and found several appalling errors in the care provided to Pauline. The errors caused a significant delay in diagnosis of Pauline’s breast cancer, allowing it to grow unchecked and reach the stage that her prognosis was eventually terminal.

The serious errors JMW’s Sally Leonards identified included:

  • Failing to heed Pauline’s strong family history of breast cancer.
  • Failing to appreciate that 10-15 per cent of breast cancers are not visible on mammograms
  • Failing to offer an MRI scan at her first two follow up appointments to fully assess the breast lump
  • Failing to perform a biopsy of the lump at her first follow-up appointment.

Had these errors not been made Pauline would have been diagnosed and treated in time to save her life. Although nothing could compensate her family for their terrible loss JMW’s Sally Leonards was able to secure them an admission of negligence and an apology from the hospital trust and £300,000 in compensation for their pain and suffering and to cover the cost of funeral expenses.

Get in touch if you and your family have suffered in a similar manner

To speak to a member of the team at JMW, simply call us on 0345 872 6666 or complete our online enquiry form and allow us to contact you. We will discuss your situation with understanding and care, and help you get the outcome you deserve.

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