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Salmon Arm woman suing Interior Health over delay in cancer diagnosis

The woman claims a lab mix-up caused her diagnosis to be delayed by eight months
A Salmon Arm woman has taken Interior Health and a surgeon to court after a lab mix-up allegedly caused her cancer diagnosis to be delayed by eight months, according to a notice of claim filed in B.C. Supreme Court May 15, 2023. (Morning Star file photo)

A Salmon Arm woman is taking Interior Health and a surgeon to court, claiming negligence caused her breast cancer to go undiagnosed for eight months.

In a notice of claim filed in B.C. Supreme Court May 15, Kathleen Gwen Boulanger names surgeon Jennifer Power and the health authority that operates Vernon Jubilee Hospital as defendants.

Boulanger claims she was told that a biopsy sample from her breast “may have been mixed up” with another patient’s.

The court documents note Boulanger has a family history of cancer. In October 2019 she underwent a mammogram which revealed a suspicious 1.5 centimetre mass. After a biopsy about a week later, it was found that there was “no evidence of malignancy.”

In May 2020, a breast ultrasound and mammogram was ordered and found the mass had doubled in size.

In June she was diagnosed with cancer, and the next day she followed up with her doctor who explained her previous lab specimen had been “compromised” and it might have been mixed up with a different patient’s.

“How the specimen mix-up or reporting mix-up occurred is unknown to the plaintiff,” the cort document reads.

In July, Boulanger underwent a lumpectomy and another biopsy. That same day she met with doctors to talk about the mix up. Later that month she also underwent chemotherapy and radiation treatment.

“As a result of the negligence and breaches of contract of (the doctor and Interior Health), the plaintiff’s breast cancer went undetected for a period of about eight months,” the court documents read.

The notice of claim says it was the responsibility of the defendants to ensure a timely diagnosis was given, and “the defendant doctor knew or ought to have known that by failing to exercise appropriate care could result in permanent injury to the plaintiff.”

The claim notes that as a result of negligence and breaches of contract, Boulanger suffered injuries and related symptoms, including advanced cancer, side effects of cancer treatment, neuropathy in hands and feet, psychological injury, fatigue and depression. It claims that the invasive surgery, chemotherapy and radiation wouldn’t have been necessary if she had been diagnosed in October 2019.

The notice of claim seeks unspecified damages and past and future costs of health care services.

The notice of claim says the defentants failed to make appropriate inquiries or recommend a second biopsy when the results were inconsistent with the imaging.

Interior Health has 21 days to respond to the claim.

The allegations have not yet been proven in court.

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Brendan Shykora
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Brendan Shykora

About the Author: Brendan Shykora

I started as a carrier at the age of 8. In 2019 graduated from the Master of Journalism program at Carleton University.
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