Tuesday 25 September 2018

Doctor at centre of missed cancers was employed by hospital for a year

(Stock photo)
(Stock photo)
Eilish O'Regan

Eilish O'Regan

The pathologist who misdiagnosed the breast cancer tests of two patients at St James's Hospital in Dublin was employed there for the whole of 2010.

The hospital has continued to refuse to inspect the test results of some 270 other patients he examined.

It follows revelations the doctor diagnosed Dubliner Alison McCormack with a non-invasive form of breast cancer, known as DCIS, in 2010.

Ms McCormack, who was 35 at the time, had surgery, but because of the form of cancer she did not receive chemotherapy.

However, two years later she developed more symptoms and when it was found to be cancer was told the DCIS had returned, according to 'RTÉ Investigates'.

But it turned out she had a more serious form of cancer in 2010 which was missed.

An examination of 39 test samples looked at by the doctor found another woman also had her cancer misdiagnosed.

The hospital concluded the mistakes could have been "equally made by any other competent pathologist" and has refused to extend the look back to around 270 breast cancer patients whose tests he looked at, or hundreds of other samples he interpreted for other conditions.

Meanwhile, the spotlight has now shifted to the safeguards in place to minimise the risk of more patients being misdiagnosed in all cancer centres.

The body representing pathologists, the Faculty of Pathology, in the Royal College of Physicians, said that it has no data on the error rate in reading test results for DCIS cancer.

"Because the error rate is so small there is no specific data for any diagnostic type such as DCIS," said a spokeswoman.

In a bid to improve patient safety in Ireland, all 25 laboratories and eight private laboratories have input pathology results into a central computer system since 2014.

"The most recent data from the programme covering the period from August 2016 to July 2017 - which includes data from every hospital in Ireland - shows an extremely low 'error' rate of 0.27pc.

"The error rate was 0.31pc for the eight cancer centres and 0.21pc for general centres during this period.

"These figures include minor errors, unlikely to be of clinical significance, therefore the major error within the programme is actually lower than 0.27pc," she said.

She added there is no well-defined international error rate but "most authors quote a rate of between 0.5pc and 1pc".

Patients "should be reassured there is monitoring".

Irish Independent

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