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Louise, 34, loses breast 'by mistake'

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10:27 CEST+02:00
When Louise, 34, from Gävle, in central Sweden found a lump in her breast last autumn she turned to her local hospital to have it examined.

“They said they found cancer cells and wanted to take new tests,” she told newspaper Aftonbladet.

After two tests came back positive for cell changes she was certain she was right in taking the difficult decision to have the breast removed.

“If I had cancer the breast had to go, there was no question about it. My mother died from cancer when I was little and it could be hereditary. I didn't want to leave my kids the way I was left,” she told the Aftonbladet tabloid.

In December the doctors at the hospital removed her left breast and seven lymphatic nodes under her arm.

But at the post-op check up she received a shock when a specialist, whom she hadn't seen before, told her that they were very sorry but she had never had cancer at all – they had removed her breast for no medical reason.

According to local paper Gefle Dagblad, the mammography hadn't shown cancer and several pathologists at the hospital had examined the tissue sample and reached differing conclusions.

When the sample was later sent to a pathologist the cell changes were confirmed, but the specialist suggested that a longer investigation should be carried out. By then it was too late.

Louise now wears a prosthetic breast.

She is waiting for reconstructive surgery, a process that she herself had to instigate with the hospital. The months after the check up have been difficult, she told Gefle Dagblad.

“I have had no medical person to talk to during this process but have had to make sure things have got done myself,“ she told the paper.

At first she was just really pleased it wasn't cancer but when the shock started to ease she got angry and afraid of the hospital.

The hospital is now considering reporting the incident to the National Board of Health and Welfare (Socialstyrelsen) according to Lex Maria, the name used to refer to regulations governing the reporting of injuries or incidents in the Swedish health care system.

A similar case as Louise's was reported at the same hospital in the beginning of July when a 47-year-old woman had her breast removed after a contaminated test led doctors to believe she had cancer.

According to Johan Ahlgren of the Oncology department at the hospital, one of the reasons behind why mistakes happen is that there has been a dearth of pathologists at the hospital last year.

“We've had a few too few pathologists during the past year, which has led to some mistakes. How many that could be I can't really say,” he told Gefle Dagblad.

At the county council they are aware of the incidents.

“We have take measures to make sure that the hygiene around test results is better. And in the other case we are investigating why the wrong diagnosis was reached. It is, of course, both awful and unfortunate, “ said Helena Björkman of the Gävleborg County Council to Aftonbladet.

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