A radiation oncology expert witness advises on a case involving a patient who was diagnosed with left breast cancer and underwent surgery to remove the tumor, which had spread into two lymph nodes in her armpit. The cancer in both lymph nodes had grown so quickly that it had broken through the capsule of the lymph nodes and was spreading into the surrounding tissues. The patient then received chemotherapy, followed by intraoperative and regular radiation therapy. The regular radiation therapy was prescribed and administered by defendant doctor.
Eight months later, the patient began to experience weakness and numbness of the left hand and arm. A PET/CT scan showed a small area of suspicious activity in the area of the surgical clips in the armpit. This was the identical area where the post-surgery pathology report had demonstrated extra nodal extension. An MRI showed a 2.0 by 1.5 by 2.0 cm mass in the L axillary neurovascular bundle which correlated with the abnormal PET/CT scan and was consistent with re-growth of tumor in the left armpit. This tumor was removed. The pathology was consistent with the same breast cancer. She underwent additional chemotherapy and additional radiation therapy directed to the tumor.
Several months later, a PET/CT scan showed metastatic cancer within both lobes of the liver. She continued to develop significant spread of the breast cancer to the brain and spine and she died.
The woman’s family sued the defendant for negligence, alleging she breached the standard of care by failing to adequately treat her breast cancer with radiation.