Cancer now terminal after error

An Otago woman who believes she was regarded as a "time waster" by her doctors is now dying from a cancer which was not spotted on an MRI scan.

"I understand mistakes can be made in diagnosis, that humans are not infallible," she said,

"However in this instance every opportunity was there to find this cancer in five visits and I feel very failed."

The woman is the second person spoken to this week by the Otago Daily Times who has a terminal cancer which could have been operated on before reaching that point if a scan result had been actioned correctly.

The newspaper is not naming the patients or practitioners, but the cases involve different doctors.

"I am now very aware of how lacking the medical regimen is in New Zealand and how many people it is failing, especially with this breast cancer early detection promotion that goes in," the woman said.

In 2013 she was referred for a mammogram and told nothing was amiss.

After another clear scan some months later, she was then recalled as an anomaly had been detected by another hospital - mammograms are read by staff at two different hospitals for safety reasons.

"I had an MRI which again showed nothing amiss," the woman said.

"I had another visit about six months later and saw the same doctor once more. He very much treated me as a time waster."

Finally, in October 2015, the woman saw a different doctor who revealed that she in fact had breast cancer.

"The previous results and MRI were reviewed and it was found the cancer was evident then - the results had been misread," she said.

"I had surgery the following week and a 6½cm lump was found, and cancer involving 14 lymph nodes.

"I developed metastatic cancer in my bones."

The woman had been told her case was now incurable, but that the outcome could have been very different if her cancer had been diagnosed properly at the time.

"I never had an apology, and was never aware of any inquiry," she said.

"There have been mistakes and shabby treatment throughout this process.

"I actually feel unsafe within the system: I don't feel cared for particularly, or listened to."

Earlier this week the ODT reported the case of a woman whose gynaecological cancer was detected by a scan but whose GP did not see or follow up those results until it was too late.

Her case was examined by the Health and Disability Commissioner, who ordered that the GP's competency to practice be reviewed.

Last week the HDC reported back on another scan mishap in Dunedin, which saw a tumour not acted on for nine months because of a system failure.

That resulted in the ODT being told of other issues communicating scan results, including one which saw a man partially lose his sight.



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