A New Zealand woman died after her doctor "completely forgot" to tell her she had breast cancer. The doctor has been ordered to apologise to the woman's family.
The woman died earlier this year after a five-year battle with breast cancer which her GP failed to diagnose quickly, despite being told by a specialist that she probably had the disease.
The GP was told to review his practice and audit his clinical files to ensure he didn't miss more cancer cases involving other patients, said a report released by New Zealand's Health and Disability Commissioner, Mr. Anthony Hill.
The woman, who had breast cancer treatment in 2003, went to the unidentified medical centre in November 2009 complaining of pain in her left shoulder.
Well aware that his patient was a cancer survivor, the GP reffered her to an x-ray screening, where the radiologist said revealed a tendon tear that appeared "highly suggestive of metastasis", or the spread of cancerous lesions.
During her follow up consultation, several days later, the GP failed to mention about the cancer link, instead only informing her of the tendon tear and giving her a steroid injection which the woman said was "excruciating".
If the pain persisted, she was instructed by her GP to return in a month, which she did once in December and again in January before the doctor finally referred her to an orthopaedic surgeon. She switched her care another doctor after being diagnosed with cancer in February 2010, however despite several years of treatment, the woman did not survive.
The report states the doctor told the investigators he "either overlooked or completely forgot about the radiologist's comment in relation to a suspicious lesion."
New Zealand's Health and Disability Commissioner Mr. Anthony Hill criticised the GP for failing to read his own notes, ask the right questions, or reflect on his patient's medical history when assessing her. "Doctors owe patients a duty of care in handling patient test results, including advising patients of, and following up on, results," he said.
The GP has been referred to the Director of Proceedings for possible legal action.