Woman Undergoes Cancer Surgery — Doesn’t Have Cancer
51-year-old Harlem mom, Eduvigis Rodriguez, was diagnosed by her physician with cancer and underwent surgery which removed her left breast and led to additional procedures and complications. However, it turns out that she didn’t have cancer after all. Instead, Rodriguez had sclerosing adenosis, benign extra growth tissue in the breast lobules.
The whole problem began when Rodriguez noticed a lump in her breast, and called Mount Sinai Beth Israel Hospital to get it checked out. Upon review, the hospital’s pathologist Dr. Jean-Marc Cohen misread her biopsy results. He had diagnosed her with infiltrating ductal carcinoma, more commonly known as breast cancer and Rodriquez was immediately sent for surgery at Lenox Hill Hospital.
Although a medical review of a recommending physician’s notes is supposed to be required of Lenox’s own personnel, such a review never took place. Despite the oversight, the surgeon, Dr. Magdi Bebawi, signed a form prior to the surgery stating, I certify that outside pathology slides have been reviewed by the hospital’s pathology department.” Bebawi performed the mastectomy on Rodriguez in April 2015, and the mistake wasn’t discovered until the Lenox Hill staff were doing routine post-surgery testing on the already removed breast tissue. No cancer was present. Only then did the doctor’s ask for samples from the woman’s original biopsy and were able to conclude that she never had cancer.
Upon realizing the mistake and having to undergo a traumatic surgery and follow up care, Rodriquez said, “I felt very confused. It was a strong shock.” She decided to file a civil medical malpractice suit in Manhattan Supreme Court. “I didn’t know whether to smile and thank God I didn’t have cancer or cry because I’ve been through so much,” she said. “I want justice, and I want explanations. I do not want to see this happen to anyone else. I had confidence in the surgeon and the hospitals, but I cannot believe all the mistakes that were made.”
In his court deposition, Dr. Bebawi said he felt horrible about the whole situation. “After the surgery, when I was told that the review of the biopsy showed no cancer, I immediately called her and made her aware that I am very sorry and I feel very bad that we did this procedure for no cancer,” the surgeon said. “I did the surgery based on the pathology report which I received.”
Andrew Carboy, Rodriquez’s attorney, said that Bebawi and his staff were to blame for the mistake, which could have been avoided if they had simply made the required review. “A second review of the biopsy tissue at Lenox Hill, in advance of any surgery, would have resulted in the cancellation of the mastectomy,’’ he claimed. His client has undergone reconstructive breast surgery, but has suffered from blood clots in her lungs and a surgical hernia which would require additional procedures to correct.
Most patients who receive a cancer diagnosis do not ask for a second opinion. They want to rid their bodies of the disease as quickly as possible. It’s a scary situation, and patients expect their doctors to be correct and the system to function properly. “You would usually trust the pathologist that your health team is using. You wouldn’t question your team,” Dr. Arl Van Moore, former president of the American College of Radiology explained.