Breast cancer

11 August 2010

Woman gets R1.4m for unnecessary mastectomy

A woman who underwent a double mastectomy and later discovered she didn't have breast cancer was set to receive R1.4 million in a settlement.

A woman who underwent a double mastectomy and later discovered she didn't have breast cancer was set to receive $198,000 (R1.4 million) under a settlement approved by the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors.

Ana Jimenez-Salgado had her breasts surgically removed at Los Angeles County-USC Medical Centre after two outside pathologists determined the cells obtained from an August 2007 biopsy were cancerous.

She later underwent reconstructive surgery. The hospital's pathologists examined tissue obtained during that procedure and concluded she did not have breast cancer.

Benign condition

Instead, she was suffering from "a benign condition with features that are very similar to cancerous cells," according to county documents.

Jimenez-Salgado filed a medical malpractice lawsuit, alleging the hospital was negligent in relying on the interpretation of the outside pathologists. She also claimed the breast reconstruction surgery was negligently performed.

The county acknowledged it failed to review the biopsy specimens, resulting in the unnecessary mastectomy.

The hospital has revised its policies to ensure that in-house pathologists review biopsy specimens obtained from outside facilities. It has also stopped sending patients to outside facilities for MRI directed biopsies.

Medical bill also covered

In approving the settlement, the county supervisors also agreed to pay $24,756 (R180,000) of Jimenez-Salgado's medical bills not covered by Medi-Cal, the state's version of the federal Medicaid program that provides coverage for poor people.

An after-hours call seeking comment from Jimenez-Salgado's attorney wasn't immediately returned. - (Sapa, August 2010)


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Breast cancer expert

Dr Gudgeon qualified in Birmingham, England, in 1968. She has more than 40 years experience in oncology, and in 1994 she founded her practice, Cape Breast Care, where she treats benign and malignant breast cancers. Dr Boeddinghaus obtained her qualification at UCT Medical School in 1994 and her MRCP in London in 1998. She has worked extensively in the field of oncology and has a special interest in the hormonal management of breast cancer. She now works with Dr Gudgeon at Cape Breast Care. Read more.

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