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Tumor Seen But Still Missed; $15 Million Verdict

February 13, 2012
Written by: , Filed in: Breast Imaging
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A 2002 mammogram revealed what Stephanie Tesoriero now knows was breast cancer. But a radiologist found that the marble-size lump showed “no evidence of malignancy,” ordered no further tests, and told Tesoriero to return for another exam in about a year.

That’s what Tesoriero alleged in a medical malpractice lawsuit against the radiologist, Paul Fisher, MD, of the Carol M. Baldwin Breast Care Center in Stony Brook, New York. Last week, after a two-week trial, a jury of six women awarded her $15 million.

“This could have all been avoided,” Tesoriero said, according to Greg Cergol of WNBC-TV in New York City.

Tesoriero, 50, is a mother of three. She said that when she did have further tests 16 months after Dr. Fisher’s mammogram reading, the lump had grown to the size of a golf ball. That’s when she learned that it indeed was malignant. She underwent chemotherapy, radiation, and a mastectomy, and her cancer went into remission.

After the trial, she asked:

Why didn’t they find it the first time? Why didn’t they go the extra step and do a sonogram?

Tesoriero recently learned that the cancer had returned and had spread to her bones. According to her lawyer, Robert Fallarino, she must now undergo chemotherapy nearly every week for the rest of her life.

She wonders whether detection in 2002 would have allowed treatment to be more effective.

She did not sue the Baldwin Breast Cancer Center and in fact underwent treatment there. But she did decide to sue Dr. Fisher. “I just wanted him to admit he made a mistake,” she said. “Doctors do make mistakes.”

She said she also wanted to sound a warning for other women:

If you have any suspicions, any doubts, speak to the doctor and ask for another test.

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A lawsuit in Illinois charges that a radiologist and an ob-gyn both misread a mammogram and failed to detect a tumor. See our Facebook post for details.

Related seminar: Breast & Women’s Imaging Seminar

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One Response to “Tumor Seen But Still Missed; $15 Million Verdict”

  1. FG on February 17th, 2012 at 2:08 pm

    Several thoughts come to mind seeing this sad case. First, my sympathy to the patient who has breast cancer and all that she has to go through. However, this award is absurd.

    As physicians, we need to consider several things. Radiologists may see 30-100 mammograms a day so although each case may seem to be individualized, in reality they are not. They are part of a rolling conveyor of cases. Therefore, the jury and invited experts never get to see the case in question in the true context of the ‘read.’ Physicians must always read exams individually and pull it from the daily ‘work’ context and put the case into ‘lawsuit’ context.

    Most cancers have already been present for several years. Nearly all ‘newly found’ cancers are present on the year prior exam. Was the prior physician involved in the case?

    Why was there a 16 month gap from the original case? Sounds like an additional B3 6 month follow-up or delay on patient’s behalf?

    We don’t know the details which limits our ability to learn from the case. Stating a ‘marble sized’ cancer means nothing.

    Also, if this was an aggressive cancer, it may have already spread at time of first miss. No way to ever determine this or if it was brought up in the case.

    Not to sound harsh, but this physician did not give the patient cancer. If the patient really wanted only an apology, she probably could have obtained it. The fact that the cancer was found the next year is still good for the patient. Imagine if screening exams were only every other year…it is likely that lawsuits and deaths would increase for those with cancer due to the extended wait……

    Breast cancer is a terrible thing to have and to deal with. But patients and the general public need to know that mammography is not the end all screening/diagnostic tool. Depending on the statistical origin, 10-20% of breast cancer is missed overall on mammography. A fact that needs to be clearly described to all patients receiving mammograms.

    Screening for breast cancer is a team effort involving monthly self exams, screening mammograms, and diagnostic follow-up when needed.

    Yes, patient’s ‘trust’ their Doctor to make the right call, but we are human and make mistakes. However, a 15 million judgement against a physician will make that physician question why he or she would ever read a mammogram again. From the medical point of view, that is the real loss to the patient community and one important reason why New York and all states need appropriate medical malpractice caps.