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Missed breast cancer diagnosis found in 109 Canadian women

Ohio residents may be interested in a Canadian investigation which found more than a hundred cases of breast cancer that had been missed in thousands of mammograms in the Quebec Province. Apparently the failure to diagnose breast cancer in the vast majority of cases was due to one radiologist’s errors in reading the mammogram results. That radiologist retired in 2010 – one month prior to the College of Physicians and Surgeons learning of the radiologist’s errors.

Since the radiologist had worked at three different private clinics, the investigation examined all the radiologist’s cases between October 2008 and October of 2010. Thousands of mammograms were re-examined which resulted in finding 109 individual cases of missed breast cancer diagnosis. All patients have now been or are being treated and there have been no reports of death.

A spokesperson for the college said the reviews resulted in an unusually high number of discrepancies in the films. A total of 96 cases of cancer were found, with an additional 13 found when the college expanded the investigation to include other radiologists in the same clinics. The inquiry found that these particular cancers would not have been obvious to the radiologists.

The president of the radiologists’ association said that it can be difficult to detect tiny or problematic lesions because a mammogram test is less evolved than other types of tests, such as ultra sounds, scans and magnetic resonance imaging, which allow better visualizations than mammograms. He said the errors made by the radiologist were mainly due to the fact he worked alone and did not have benefit of feedback from colleagues.

A number of recommended changes to prevent further instances of radiologist errors will be implemented at the college. Since the investigation began, two of the clinics involved have changed ownership and the third one closed. Since the radiologist has retired there is little the college can do at this point.

Currently there are a number of lawsuits in process and a spokesperson from the college said his advice to the women affected by the reading errors is to contact a personal injury attorney to determine what recourse they should take to obtain the appropriate compensation for the delay in treating their cancer diagnosis.

Source:  Globe Montreal, “Quebec investigation finds 109 misdiagnosed breast-cancer cases,” Lia levesque, March 27, 2012