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Cancer doctors said I was okay but I lost breast

A WOMAN is suing a hospital after her breast cancer was misdiagnosed three times.

Olive Fahey (57) of Rahinch, Littleton, Thurles, Co Tipperary, had to have a mastectomy and undergo 30 sessions of radiotherapy and chemotherapy when she was finally correctly diagnosed 19 months after she was first referred to hospital.

"I never expected to lose my breast," she told the High Court. "For me it was devastating."

Mrs Fahey has sued Barringtons Hospital, Limerick, where she went for treatment after she found a lump on her breast.

She has also sued the HSE, surgeon Paul O'Byrne and Alex Stafford, consultant radiologist at Barringtons.

Mr Justice Sean Ryan was told there was an admission of liability on behalf of all the defendants in relation to the injuries caused to Mrs Fahey but not in relation to the aggravated damages claimed.


The court heard that, on three separate occasions between September 2005 and March 2007, Mrs Fahey was assured she did not have breast cancer.

Former Health Minister Mary Harney met her in Leinster House and listened to her case.

"She found it unbelievable to have not one but so many misdiagnoses," Ms Harney said.

After a report ordered by the Minister concluded that there was a significant and avoidable delay in diagnosis, Mrs Fahey thought her case would be dealt with "quickly and kindly".

"I did not expect to have to come to the High Court," she said.

As a result of Mrs Fahey's misdiagnosis, the former Health Minister directed an inquiry into the services at Barringtons Hospital for those with symptoms of breast disease.

An investigation was also conducted relating to the care of Mrs Fahey, whose tissue samples had been sent to the pathology department at University College Hospital, Galway.

Counsel said the report into Barringtons concluded there was a significant and avoidable delay in diagnosing Mrs Fahey.

The report found there were clear signs of malignancy in the samples sent for pathology, which had come back as benign.


Earlier, Mr Doyle said the case was about the defendant's failure to diagnose her breast cancer on three different occasions between 2005 and March 2007.

She had gone to her doctor in 2005 because she thought there was something wrong with her left breast.

Her GP referred her to Barringtons Hospital, where Mrs Fahey was assured on three occasions she did not have an invasive cancer.

Nineteen months later, the truth came out that she had a grade three infiltrating and invasive cancer.

Counsel said the failure to diagnose Mrs Fahey in September 2005 has had catastrophic consequences.

Mrs Fahey has been in remission for some time but she has not been able to work since the diagnosis.

O'Byrne removed two lumps from Mrs Fahey's breast in September 2005 and sent them off to the pathology department at University College Hospital Galway.

The results from the pathologist said the lumps were benign.

In 2006, Mrs Fahey again felt something was wrong but Stafford reported after a mammogram that the situation was unchanged.

Mrs Fahey went back to Barringtons in spring 2007.

Mr Stafford decided after an ultrasound scan to send Mrs Fahey back to the surgeon.

O'Byrne questioned the conclusion that there was no malignancy and the biopsy was sent to the Bon Secours Hospital in Cork for examination.

Three days later Mrs Fahey had a mastectomy.

The case continues.