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Delayed Breast Cancer Diagnosis Lawsuit

Sears v. St. Joseph Medical Center

PostPartum CheckupThis medical malpractice claim was filed in Baltimore County when a woman's breast cancer was repeatedly misdiagnosed and overlooked over the course of a year. It was filed in Health Claims Arbitration on January 23, 2018, and it is the 41st medical malpractice case filed in Maryland this year.

Summary of Plaintiff's Allegations

An OB/GYN physician at St. Joseph Medical Center provided a woman with prenatal care and delivered her son. During her six-week postpartum appointment, the woman told her doctor about a lump that had formed on her right breast. The doctor dismissed the lump as a clogged milk duct without performing any diagnostic exams. He didn't even mention the lump in his notes about the visit. During two additional appointments over the following six months, the woman was seen by a nurse at the OB/GYN's office. There was no follow up or evaluation regarding the lump.

Approximately one year after she gave birth, the woman went to the emergency room at St. Joseph's Medical Center where she underwent an ultrasound, a needle core biopsy, and a PET/CT scan. She was diagnosed with Stage 4 breast cancer that had metastasized to the liver. The woman required a right breast mastectomy and reconstruction, a left breast mastopexy, and she continues to go through rounds of chemotherapy and radiation. In addition to the liver, her breast cancer has also spread to the lungs, brain, and lymph nodes.

Additional Comments
  • It's easy to mistake breast cancer for a clogged milk duct when a woman has recently given birth, but that's why it's important to engage diagnostic screening tools beyond a cursory physical exam. When a woman reports a breast lump, it is standard practice to refer her for a mammogram, ultrasound, and/or biopsy.
  • When breast cancer is diagnosed early before it metastasizes and spreads to other parts of the body, the five-year survival rate approaches 100%; but the difference in survival rates between Stage 1 and Stage 4 breast cancer is 80%. Once cancer spreads it is much more difficult to treat successfully, so early detection is key.
  • Baltimore County
  • William Prevas, M.D., OB/GYN
  • University of Maryland St. Joseph Medical Group, LLC
  • St. Joseph Medical Center, Inc.
Hospitals Where Patient Was Treated
  • St. Joseph Medical Center
  • Failing to properly examine, diagnose, and document the claimant's breast lump
  • Failing to refer the claimant for an ultrasound, mammogram, biopsy, or other diagnostic studies.
  • Failing to refer the claimant to a surgeon, oncologist, or other medical specialists.
  • Failing to follow up on the claimant's reported breast lump.
Specific Counts Pled
  • The defendants' negligence directly caused the claimant's cancer to progress unnecessarily, causing her to endure painful treatments and financial losses.
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