‘Diagnosis delays cut my chance of survival’
A WOMAN’S cancer diagnosis was delayed by 522 days, reducing her chance of survival, the High Court has heard.
Joan O’Sullivan sued for damages for medical negligence, and Judge Michael Hanna was told yesterday that the case had been settled, on undisclosed terms.
Ms O’Sullivan, 50, a homemaker from Old Road, Cashel, Co. Tipperary, sued the HSE over the care she received at Cork University Hospital, the court heard.
She claimed an 8mm tumour in her right breast was not diagnosed after she had a scan in April 2016, and when the tumour was diagnosed 522 days later in October 2017, it was 3cm in size.
Judge Hanna heard that Ms O’Sullivan has a gene mutation which means she is at higher risk of cancer. Due to the family history of the mutation, known as BRCA1, Ms O’Sullivan had been undergoing yearly mammograms and MRI scans.
Her counsel, Patrick Treacy, said she had a bilateral MRI in April 2016 – at which, the court was told, a new lesion was present in her breast. However, there was no biopsy carried out of that lesion, and no diagnosis was made. The new lesion was not discussed in a multi-disciplinary team meeting, and she was not recalled for a repeat MRI.
‘Potentially lost three years of life’
The lesion was instead reported to be a confluence of vessels, and of no concern. The court was told that in October 2017, she presented with a lump in her right breast measuring 3cm in size.
Mammograms the same day revealed that she had developed cancer. The judge was told Ms O’Sullivan has since had 20 weeks of chemotherapy and a right-sided mastectomy.
It was argued that because she was not given chemotherapy at an earlier stage, she had lost a 13% chance of survival over the next ten years, and that even with chemotherapy at the later date she had potentially lost three years of life.
In a linked action, Ms O’Sullivan also sued St James’s Hospital in Dublin, claiming she suffered a perforation to her bowel during an operation to remove her ovaries in 2013, which was part of a cancer prevention plan.
The complications from the operation derailed her plans for a double mastectomy, Mr Treacy said, as she had abdominal pain and was suffering from post-traumatic stress. Counsel said if she’d had a mastectomy, she would never have developed the cancerous lump in her right breast.
Both St James’s and the HSE denied her claims, but the court was told the HSE had this week admitted a breach of duty in relation to some of the care at CUH.
The judge wished Ms O’Sullivan ‘all the best for the future’.
Claims: Joan O’Sullivan at court yesterday