Lawyers Call For Independent Inquiry After Faulty Breast Cancer Surgery

Surgeon Continued To Operate Against National Guidelines For Three Years After Authorities Were Alerted

06.12.2011

A lawyer is calling for an independent inquiry after it was revealed that more than 700 women need a review of their care after a breast cancer surgeon was found to be operating against national guidelines.

Victoria Blankstone, medical law expert at Irwin Mitchell, is acting for a number of women who were given ‘cleavage sparing’ mastectomies by surgeon Ian Paterson between 2002 and 2010.

It is believed that many of the women he operated on from 1998 onwards will require a review of their treatment.

Mr Paterson was banned by the General Medical Council in July, after it was discovered he was performing experimental "cleavage sparing" procedures which left an amount of tissue for cosmetic reasons. This breached national guidelines which say that leaving tissue behind can increase the likelihood of the cancer returning.

More than 700 women - 573 NHS patients and 150 private patients - have been treated by Ian Paterson, and Ms Blankstone says it is now vital that all these women receive urgent medical reviews.

Although some of Mr Paterson’s patients were sent letters by their hospitals asking them to come in for a medical review as part of a patient recall, Ms Blankstone became increasingly concerned when women approached her after hearing media reports about Mr Paterson. Some of them had not received a recall letter at all.

Given the number of women involved, Ms Blankstone is now calling for an independent inquiry into the delays in stopping Mr Paterson from carrying out cleavage saving mastectomies and the delays in recalling his former patients since the investigation at the Heart of England NHS Foundation Trust in 2007.

She said: “I find it very concerning that the hospitals have been this slow to notify patients of the need for a review of their care.

“I am also very concerned that despite reports that the Heart of England NHS Trust told Ian Paterson to stop using the ‘cleavage sparing’ method in 2007, he continued to perform these operations until 2010.

“Being diagnosed with breast cancer and undergoing major surgery has a huge impact on people’s lives. To be told that the surgery has been incorrectly performed, and that this may have significantly increased the risk of breast cancer returning, is devastating.

“It is vital that the NHS Trust and Spire hospitals work together to ensure all women are recalled and that all are given the opportunity to have their treatment independently reviewed.”

Case study

A mother from Castle Bromwich has spoken of the terrible impact that the cleavage sparing mastectomy has had on her life.

The 64-year-old, who has asked not to be named, went to her GP in June 2010 having found a lump in one of her breasts. She was then diagnosed with breast cancer and Mr Paterson subsequently performed a mastectomy operation on her.

Sadly, in early July 2010, Mr Paterson told her that the cancer had spread further than they previously thought, and she underwent a further operation to remove her lymph glands seven days later.

In April 2011, having completed a course of chemotherapy and radiotherapy, she was beginning to recover and move on with her life. She didn’t receive any kind of recall letter from the hospital, and it wasn’t until July, when she saw a copy of the Birmingham Mail, that she heard about the problems with the surgery performed by Mr Paterson.

She contacted the trust herself, and was then sent for a medical review with a different surgeon. This surgeon confirmed her worst fears - Mr Paterson had performed a cleavage saving mastectomy on her.

To ensure the risk of the cancer returning was reduced, she decided to have another operation to have the excess tissue removed. This was the 3rd operation since her original diagnosis in June 2010.

She said: “I feel so angry about what happened to me, because I told Mr Paterson before the operation that I did not want a breast reconstruction, so he had no reason to leave the excess tissue. All that mattered to me was getting well again.

“He did not inform me that the mastectomy he planned to perform on me was anything out of the ordinary.

“This has been an extremely stressful and upsetting period in my life, both for me and for my family. Now that I have had to face a third operation, the stress and upset has simply been prolonged.

“I support the call for an in-depth investigation to find out how this was allowed to happen. I also urge both the private and NHS hospitals to make sure they do everything in their power to recall all the women who have been treated by Mr Paterson."

If you have suffered due to misdiagnosed breast cancer or a delayed breast cancer diagnosis, our medical negligence lawyers could help you claim compensation. Call 0808 163 4557 for a free initial consultation or see our Cancer Misdiagnosis Claims page for more details.