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Practice Sued Over Lack Of Mammograms

August 5, 2010
Written by: , Filed in: Breast Imaging, Diagnostic Imaging, Practice Management
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A lawsuit seeks $2.5 million in damages from a Virginia medical clinic and three physicians’ assistants who worked there for not diagnosing the breast cancer that killed a woman at age 58.

The Northern Virginia Daily newspaper reports that George Pierce Sr. of Winchester, Virginia, filed suit this week against Amherst Family Practice, also of Winchester. The lawsuit says Amherst provided primary care to Pierce’s late wife, Agnes Pierce, from 1985 until 2007. During that time, the complaint says, “she was never given nor referred for mammogram”—even after she reached age 55 and even when she complained of right shoulder pain and a mass in the breast/armpit area during several 2007 visits.

In November 2007, Mrs. Pierce went to the Winchester Medical Center emergency department because of neck pain, the complaint says. It says that an X-ray found “a destructive lesion of the 5th cervical vertebra,” and that CT and MRI later confirmed that finding. “She was also noted to have a large mass in the right breast, which was thought to be the primary malignancy,” the complaint says. “Mammography done on Nov. 19, 2007, was confirmatory for metastatic breast cancer.”

Mrs. Pierce died on January 25, 2009, according to the lawsuit.

This week also brought news of two developments that potentially could ease suffering among victims of breast cancer:

  • A new near-infrared fluorescence imaging technique should provide better monitoring of treatment for lymphedema, which affects a significant number of breast cancer survivors postsurgery, according to an Optical Society news release. Lymphedema involves the accumulation of fluid in the arms. The new technique measures lymphatic flow through injection of a near-infrared fluorescent dye, then exposure of tissue surfaces to a dim near-infrared laser, causing the dye to fluoresce. The study appears in the inaugural issue of Biomedical Optics Express, an online, open-access journal published by the Optical Society.
  • Researchers at Wake Forest University Baptist Medical Center (WFUBMC) discovered that low levels of ferroportin, a protein that eliminates iron from cells, are associated with the most aggressive and recurring breast cancers. They suggested that testing for ferroportin levels may help doctors more accurately predict their patients’ postsurgical prognoses. In addition, women who have high levels of the protein may have a low risk of cancer recurrence and thus may be able to avoid invasive or toxic treatments such as chemotherapy. A WFUBMC news release announced the research. The study was published Wednesday in the online version of the journal Science Translational Medicine.

Related seminar: Breast & Women’s Imaging Seminar

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