Cancer misdiagnosis due to breast tissue mix up

31 March 2023

Natalie Blunden, an Associate at the Shoosmiths Thames Valley office represented a client who was given an false cancer diagnosis following her biopsy samples becoming contaminated with someone else's tissue.
Breast tissue biopsy mix up

In February 2020, our client was referred to her local hospital breast clinic following a history of pain in one of her breasts. Appropriately, and in accordance with NHS Guidelines, she underwent a physical examination, a mammogram, an ultrasound, and breast biopsies. Once the majority of the test results had been received, she was  discussed at a multidisciplinary team (MDT) meeting; at this stage there were no biopsy results but all the other investigations had come back as showing normal results. 

When the biopsy results became available, it was reported that  there was one small fragment of  high-grade ductal carcinoma in situ (DCIS). It was noted that this did not correlate with the other test results but, despite this, our client was advised that she had breast cancer. 

She was also informed that she needed further scans in order that the cancer could be located. This was because all the other tests had been negative. She was told that the most likely plan would be for a mastectomy and that a date for  this surgery would be pencilled in, subject to the outcome of the scans. 

A few days later our client underwent an MRI scan, which was reported as normal. She also underwent an ultrasound on her lymph nodes, which again came back as normal. Consequently, our client underwent two further very painful biopsies. As a result of these biopsies she experienced quite significant bleeding which took over 30 minutes of pressure to control. Dressings were required to help stop the bleeding but the only dressings available were plasters, which our client was allergic to, and so this led to blistering and a painful rash on her breast. 

After the second biopsy results were obtained, our client was told that there was no evidence of cancer in in her breasts.  Her original biopsies were re-sent for genetic testing (PCR testing). Our client wasn’t sure what this involved but was told her mastectomy was still scheduled for the following week. Throughout this period, our client was understandably very upset and concerned about her diagnosis and she broke the news to her family and friends. 

At the end of April 2020, the PCR testing results were received and our client was informed that, in fact, she did not have cancer. The genetic testing of her original biopsy had shown that the DNA within that sample was not her DNA and the conclusion was reached that her sample had become contaminated with someone else’s. Although it was a relief to know that she did not have cancer, this news was incredibly shocking for our client, whom had already had to comprehend and try to come to terms with the news that she had cancer, explain her diagnosis to her family and psychologically prepare herself for a mastectomy. She approached us for advice and Natalie Blunden, an associate at Shoosmiths’ Thames Valley office in Reading was able to assist her with obtaining the necessary medical evidence and in investigating a claim for negligence against the hospital. She was diagnosed with a stress reaction and an adjustment disorder.

Natalie prepared a Letter of Claim, which was sent to the hospital trust under the Pre-Action Protocol for Clinical Negligence. Liability was admitted and our client received compensation. 



This information is for educational purposes only and does not constitute legal advice. It is recommended that specific professional advice is sought before acting on any of the information given. © Shoosmiths LLP 2024

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