Posts Tagged ‘breast cancer’

Woman undergoes mastectomy only to learn a week later, she never had cancer. Now another patient of same doctor claims the same fate.

June 4, 2010

The Vancouver Sun reported that in 2001, Dr. Barbara Heartwell of the Hotel Deiu Grace Hospital in Windsor, ON performed an unneccessary mastectomy. Janice Laporte was the victim of Dr. Heartwell’s disfiguring mistake.

Ms. Laporte underwent a mastectomy in September of 2001 , and was told just one week post-operative that she never had breast cancer. Ms. Laporte’s case details are protected by a confidentiality clause; her case was settled soon after filing suit in 2002. Ms. Laporte told the Canadian Press, after a second patient came forward:

“It’s bad enough to have to be told you have cancer or to have a mastectomy,” she said.

“That is devastating enough, but then to hear that it was done for no good reason just compounds everything.”

“At least things are being looked in to now,” she said. “It’s unfortunate that this has to happen for them to look into this kind of stuff.”

The second woman who allegedly fell victim to Dr. Heartwell’s “mistaken diagnosis” is Laurie Johnston, a middle-aged single mother of a teen daughter. Ms. Johnston claims she underwent an unneccessary mastectomy in November of 2009.

Ms. Johnston has filed suit with similar accusations to those of Ms. Laporte. “Heartwell performed ‘dramatic, disfiguring and invasive surgery’…” Since filing suit, Ms. Johnston has also taken her case public.

Hotel Deiu Grace Hospital claims it became aware of the lawsuit when a reporter inquired about details of the case. The hospital has since launched an investigation into Dr. Heartwell’s cases. Dr. Kevin Tracey stated during a news conference with the Canadian Press that:

“During the course of our investigation she indicated that in our review of her past cases we would find additional cases of concern”

Apparently, these “additional cases of concern” caused the hospital to widen it’s investigation to include over 10,000 pathology reports  which were completed by Dr. Olive Williams.

Dr. Williams’ privileges were suspended in January; Dr. Heartwell voluntarily stopped operating in the early weeks of March. Both physicians have been reported to the College of Physicians and Surgeons of Ontario.

To prevent further such tragic events as happened to Ms. Laporte and ostensibly Ms. Johnston as well, a pre-surgery safety checklist was implemented into hospital practice in April. Deb Mathews, Ontario’s Health Minister, claims that of the items on the checklist, review of biopsy results are required prior to administering anesthesia.

A Windsor lawyer, Harvey Strosberg, predicts that Ms. Johnston’s case will never see the inside of a courtroom. Her case is strong and he predicts that she will likely reach a settlement agreement.

Simply put – it SHOULD never see ‘the inside of a courtroom. How tragic!

Univ of Michigan’s Cancer Center Study Tests Freezing Technique for Breast Cancer Tumor | Testing It Up – Test Country Blog

March 6, 2010

Is there a new treatment for breast cancer on the horizon? Read this blog report –  Study Tests Freezing Technique for Breast Cancer Tumor | Testing It Up.

Cryoablation – freezing – has been successfully used in mice to stop the spread of breast cancer.  The research was conducted by a team at the University of Michigan Comprehensive Cancer Center, which is affiliated with the university’s medical school.

Dr. Michael Sabel, who led the team of researchers,  explained the following in a news release:

“Cryoablation has strong potential as a treatment for breast cancer… Not only does it appear effective in treating the primary tumor with little cosmetic concerns, but it also may stimulate an immune response capable of eradicating any cells that have traveled throughout the body, reducing both local and distant recurrence, similar to giving a breast cancer vaccine.”

The original report on this important research was done by BusinessWeek – for further information read the posting by that publication.

If you go to the Center’s site,  you will also find fascinating and important stem cell research being conducted by that institution and an informative video done by the Center’s director, Dr. Max Wicha, regarding their stem cell research efforts.

It was at this Center that breast cancer stem cells were first discovered in 2003.

While there has been a steady decline in the death rate related to breast cancer since 1990, the bad news is that approximately 41,000 women are still dying each year in the United States alone from this horrible disease.

Aspirin Found to Decrease Mortality in Breast Cancer Patients

February 17, 2010

A recent study reported in Medical News Today and published in the Journal of Clinical Oncology suggests that women who take aspirin at the conclusion of chemotherapy are less likely to die from breast cancer.

The study involved 4,164 female registered nurses who were diagnoses with breast cancer between 1976 and 2002. Because aspirin is contraindicated during chemotherapy, those patients who took aspirin generally began taking the drug a year after their breast cancer diagnosis.

The result of the study suggests a positive correlation between taking aspiring and decreased mortality rates. Women who took aspirin at least two days a week reduced their mortality risk by 64% to 71%.

Questioning The Change In Mammography Guidelines

January 31, 2010

Recently, I posted a blog on the new guidelines for mammograms  issued in November 2009 by the US Preventive Services Task Force.

A new posting on Medical News Today provides ‘the other side of the argument.’  Specialist in diagnostic imaging have questioned these new guidelines.  A recent article – Questioning The Change In Mammography Guidelines – takes the position that –

The methodology and evidence behind a widely publicized change in national mammography guidelines is questionable, according to a review in the Journal of Diagnostic Medical Sonography (JDMS), published by SAGE

For those who have been following the history of these ‘guidelines,’ you know that they have changed a number of times.  One wonders if they shouldn’t be required reading on Twitter for physicians so that they can keep up with the ‘standard of care’ when treating their patients.  Where will it all end?  Who knows.  I stand by the advice given in our prior post:

Perhaps the best advice – Women be knowledgeable about the recommendations and discuss them and their application to you and your risk factors for breast cancer with your gynecologist.  If you are a young woman or are unfamiliar with what a mammogram is all about, you may want to consider watching a video of what this test is all about and how it is performed.

Medical News: Sorting Out the Mammography Mess – in Hematology/Oncology, Breast Cancer from MedPage Today

January 30, 2010

Confused about when you should start undergoing screening mammography?  A recent article in medpage today –Medical News: Sorting Out the Mammography Mess – in Hematology/Oncology, Breast Cancer from MedPage Today – attempts to educate women about this seemingly ever-changing set of guidelines.

The article contains an audio interview with Dr. Len Lichtenfeld, Deputy Chief Medical Officer of the American Cancer Society, which is worth a ‘listen.’

This whole new discussion as to when women should get screening mammograms arose when the US Preventive Services Task Force issues its recent recommendations.

Perhaps the best advice – Women be knowledgeable about the recommendations and discuss them and their application to you and your risk factors for breast cancer with your gynecologist.  If you are a young woman or are unfamiliar with what a mammogram is all about, you may want to consider watching a video of what this test is all about and how it is performed.

News: Verdict – Breast Cancer – $34,300,000 – Pennsylvania

January 8, 2010

Verdict Search announced today (see News), a verdict that was rendered by a jury in the Philadelphia County Court of Common Pleas, PA on November 23, 2009.

Basically, the plaintiff, Donna Kendall, a 59 year old grocery clerk from Illinois, alleged that she had taken for a period of  just over 6 years estrogen-based Premarin, manufactured by Wyeth Pharmaceuticals  Inc. together with progestin-laden Provera, manufactured by Pharmacia & Upjohn Company, which later became a division of Pfizer Inc., to treat her menopausal symptoms, which had been recommended by her private physician.

In 1998, her physician suggested that she switch to a single drug, Prempro, which she took until the time she discovered a lump in her breast.

Kendall claimed that her cancer was the result of 11 years of taking this combination therapy.  Her attorneys put on substantial (and convincing – it would seem) evidence that these defendant manufacturers had spent a great deal of effort and money to discredit researchers, who were warning of the dangers inherent in this type of combination therapy.  The Verdict Search summary of the case reads in relevant part:

The plaintiff’s theory that the companies did not adequately warn of breast cancer risk focused on the defendants’ active steps to neutralize and discredit researchers. Counsel presented evidence attempting to show that the drug companies spent tremendous amounts of money making sure that the medical data outlining the cancerous effects of combination hormone therapy would not get through to physicians. To do this, the defendants hired a public relations firm to devise media plans in attempt to counter any perceived ill publicity about the drugs, which was done to protect sales and profits, according to plaintiff’s counsel.

The plaintiff’s pharmaceutical regulatory experts testified that the defendants were aware of a need to conduct a cancer study in response to the hormone drugs but failed to adequately do so. The experts also testified that the warnings on the Premarin, Provera and Prempro drug labels failed to adequately cite the risks of developing breast cancer.

The breakdown of the verdict is reported as being

$6,300,000 Personal Injury: compensatory damages

6,000,000 Personal Injury: punitive damages against Wyeth

$12,000,000 Personal Injury: punitive damages against Upjohn

No doubt an appeal was filed.  We will try to follow this case and report on its outcome.

Few Breast Cancer Surgeons Follow Quality Of Care Standards

January 6, 2010

Today’s online issue of Medical News Today offers good insight for women, who have been diagnosed with breast cancer.  A recent study by the University of Michigan Comprehensive Cancer Center notes that the standards of care in the treatment of such patients calls for, among other things, “consulting with other specialists and providing resources and education to help patients make treatment decisions.”

“Despite the mantra for multidisciplinary decision-making and care intake for patients, surgeons in the community are reporting relatively little of that in their practices,” says lead study author Steven J. Katz, M.D., M.P.H., professor of internal medicine at the U-M Medical School and professor of health management and policy at the U-M School of Public Health.

As further noted by one of the co-directors of the program at U-M Comprehensive Cancer Center:

“Either doctors are not convinced these elements matter or there are logistical constraints in terms of building these standards into their practices. What the implications are for patients is unknown. These results suggest patients might find a more integrated practice among surgeons with higher volume. But we don’t know whether that matters with regards to patient decision making, quality of life and satisfaction,” says Katz, who is also co-director of the socio-behavioral program at the U-M Comprehensive Cancer Center.

The authors of the article (for a full review, see Few Breast Cancer Surgeons Follow Quality Of Care Standards), in Medical News Today cite the following statistics with respect to breast cancer – “Breast cancer statistics: 194,280 Americans will be diagnosed with breast cancer this year and 40,610 will die from the disease, according to the American Cancer Society.”

It would seem that the moral of the story in this report for women dealing with this disease is – make sure you discuss your options with your doctor and specifically discuss the concept of a multi-disciplinary approach in the formation of your treatment choices.

There is also an encouraging report on the U-M Comprehensive Cancer Center’s site that speaks to their scientists having “uncovered an important link between inflammation and breast cancer stem cells that suggests a new way to target cells that are resistant to current treatments.”