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Former Mississippi Inmate Says Health Contractors Refused to Treat Breast Cancer Until It Was Terminal

— February 14, 2024

The lawsuit suggests that, even as doctors continued telling 62-year-old Susie Balfour that anomalies in her breast were “probably” benign, they had already started billing for cancer-related services.

A recently-filed lawsuit alleges that a Mississippi prison denied a 62-year-old woman with breast cancer access to basic medical care, letting the disease go undiagnosed until it spread to other parts of her body and became terminal.

According to The Guardian, plaintiff Susie Balfour claims that the Mississippi Department of Corrections and its medical officials knew, or should have known, that she might have cancer as early as May of 2018. However, even when she began exhibiting symptoms, she was never permitted to receive a biopsy until November of 2021—just one month before her scheduled release date.

After being released from custody, Balfour saw a doctor at the University of Mississippi Medical Center who diagnosed her with stage four breast cancer in January of 2022.

In her complaint, Balfour suggests that Mississippi deliberately delayed life-saving care, and routinely failed to conduct the follow-up appointments that its own contracted clinicians recommended Balfour attend.

Jarringly, attorneys for Balfour say that this is a common occurrence—and that there are at least 15 other persons incarcerated at the same prison, the Central Mississippi Correctional Facility, who have been diagnosed with cancer and been refused reasonable access to medical treatment.

Image via Pexels/Pixabay. (CCA-BY-0.0)

“I want to hold them accountable for what they’ve done to me,” Balfour said in an interview, excerpts from which were published by The Guardian. “Being alone in there, I feared I was going to die, because I’ve seen so many others dying from not being able to get the proper care they needed.”

Balfour’s lawsuit alleges violations of her constitutional rights, including prohibitions against cruel and unusual punishment. It names dozens of private parties and commercial entities as defendants, including Mississippi Department of Corrections contractors Wexford Health Sources and Centurion Health, as well as several health care companies and practicing physicians.

Balfour’s medical concerns, notes The Guardian, emerged after the prison gave her a mammogram in June 2011. Her doctor said that the results indicated “benign appearing […] microcalcifications in both breasts,” and recommended that she receive another screening the following year.

However, Wexford Health Sources allegedly failed to schedule another screening until January 2013, even though Balfour had begun to experience recurring pain and tenderness in her breasts.

But, after her 2013 screening, Balfour was again referred to additional testing—testing that Wexford did not conduct until January 2016, nearly three years later. More calcifications were identified, and Balfour was told that she should be seen every six months.

During her next series of mammograms—the first of which was conducted two years later, in May of 2018—doctors continued noting increasing calcifications, but told Balfour they were “probably benign.”

Meanwhile, the physicians’ billing records indicated that they were providing services related to “malignant neoplasm in breast,” suggesting that they had already determined that she had breast cancer.

Attorneys for Balfour say that, after her release, Balfour provided copies of her earlier records to medical experts—experts who found evidence of malignancy among her oldest mammograms.

“My cancer is now untreatable because of what they did to me, and I’m standing up to prevent this from happening to others inside ― many of whom are my friends,” Balfour said in a statement. “Even when we are locked up and stripped of our rights, we should still have the right to know what is happening inside our bodies.”


Mississippi prison delayed woman’s cancer diagnosis until it was terminal, lawsuit says

She Pleaded For Medical Care In Prison. By The Time She Got Out, Her Cancer Was Untreatable.

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