Saturday 17 November 2018

Minister urged to call for review of breast cancer cases at major hospital

Rachael Liston. Photo: Anthony Woods
Rachael Liston. Photo: Anthony Woods
Laura Larkin

Laura Larkin

Health Minister Simon Harris is facing renewed calls to under take a review of the pathology of a number of breast cancer patients who attended St James's Hospital in 2010.

Rachael Liston - a medical negligence specialist with Orpen Franks law firm - who appeared in an RTE Investigates special report which looked at the failure to diagnose invasive cancer in a patient at the hospital in 2010 has called on the minister to seek the review.

Her client, Alison McCormack, was 35 when she was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2010. Following a referral to the breast clinic in St James' she was diagnosed with DCIS, Ductal carcinoma in situ, a type of cancer that is curable with surgery.

The young woman went to have a mastectomy but was not prescribed chemotherapy or other treatment as DCIS is a non-invasive cancer.

Alison McCormack. Photo: courtesy Irish Examiner
Alison McCormack. Photo: courtesy Irish Examiner

However, in October 2012 Allison was diagnosed with DCIS a second time - this tie in her lymph nodes and neck.

At the time she was told her that her cancer had returned.

Her treatment included chemotherapy and she has been left with reduced use of her right arm.

In 2013 after making repeated requests Alison secured a meeting at St James's Hospital to discuss questions she had over her case.

She was informed she was misdiagnosed and was given a written report into the misdiagnoses - which had been completed months before.

Her original 2010 biopsy had shown invasive cancer but this had been missed.

The hospital said this was a mistake that any pathologist could have made and a review of 39 of the specialist's cases from 2010 was conducted.

The review found that of nine DCIS cases Allison and another woman were misdiagnosed.

A further review of the pathologist's work was not found to be warranted the hospital said.

Ms McCormack's solicitor, Ms Liston, wrote to Health Minister Simon Harris on June 30 and said:

"This is a matter of general public importance and the concern is that patients may have been misdiagnosed who may unaware of same. At worst some patients may have died."

The Department of Health has confirmed that the matter was brought to the attention of the HSE upon receipt of the letter.

However, due to an error a reply prepared in response to Ms Liston was not issued to her.

Independent.ie understands the letter was not posted out at the time but a reply was issued this week.

In response Mr Harris said that the HSE has advised him a look back review is not warranted.

In a new letter Ms Liston has urged the minister to call for a complete review.

"Whilst it is reassuring that efforts are being made to enhance and improve our cancer services in Ireland, clearly you would also like to ensure the health and wellbeing of patients who may have been affected by a misdiagnosis and who may not be aware of [it]," she said.

"A review of the pathology in the remaining 270 patients is likely to take no longer than one week for an independent Pathologist to complete."

A spokeswoman for the Department of Health said the department "is considering Ms Liston’s letter... and the Minister will write in reply".

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