Articles Posted in Cancer

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A Lackawanna County jury found that a urologist violated the standard of care in his treatment of a 54 year old man who complained of urinary problems. Terrence Golden began seeking Dr. Milan Smolko in September, 2002 and ultimately treated with him several times over 16 months without any diagnosis of resolution of his problems. Dr. Smolko told Mr. Golden he had an inflamed and enlarged prostate, but did nothing to further evaluate his condition until June, 2003 when a bladder biopsy was ordered. Unfortunately, the pathologist at Wayne Memorial Hospital where the biopsy was sent failed to find the bladder cancer that was causing Mr. Golden’s problems. Mr. Golden continued to see Dr. Smolko until June, 2004, when he made his way to another doctor for a second opinion and was finally correctly diagnosed with bladder cancer.

By the time Mr. Golden was accurately diagnosed, the cancer had spread and Mr. Golden required surgery to remove his bladder, prostate and pieces of his urethra. Even with this radical surgery, Mr. Golden’s cancer was so advanced that it was incurable and he ultimately died in January, 2008 at the age of 60. Mrs. Golden sued Dr. Smolko, Wayne Memorial Hospital and the pathologist who looked at the bladder biopsy in June, 2003. The hospital and pathologist reached a confidential settlement with Mrs. Golden prior to trial, so the case went to the jury solely against Dr. Smolko. The jury awarded $1.88 Million to Mrs. Golden. Dr. Smolko has filed an appeal.

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A Philadelphia jury unanimously found in favor of a woman who alleged that 2 doctors at 2 hospitals failed to timely diagnose breast cancer and awarded her $12 Million as compensation. Sutherlin v. Magilner. At trial, the jury heard testimony that 2 doctors at 2 different hospitals – Fox Chase Cancer Center and Albert Einstein Medical Center – missed suspicious findings on mammograms that required follow-up evaluation and would have diagnosed Stage 1 breast cancer that could have been cured with a mastectomy. The jury heard that because of the errors, the woman was not diagnosed until she had Stage 4 cancer that had spread to her bones and organs.

The woman received a screening mamogram in June 2003 from a Fox Chase mobile mammography unit that was read as showing a dilated duct unchanged from a 2001 mammogram. The jury heard testimony that the woman’s 2001 mammogram did not show a dilated duct, which meant that the 2003 mammogram should have been reported as showing a suspicious change that required further evaluation. The woman then had a 2004 mammogram at the Albert Einstein Medical Center and the physician who read that report noted several small nodular densities that were stable when compared to prior mammograms. Again, the jury heard evidence that the doctor mis-read the mammogram because the woman’s prior mammograms had not reported nodular densities. The woman’s lawyers argued that doctors again missed a chance to instruct the woman to obtain follow-up medical care that would have diagnosed the cancer. Ultimately, the woman was found to have Stage 4 metastatic breast cancer in the location where the 2003 mammogram showed a dilated duct.

Prior to trial, the Albert Einstein Medical Center and the doctor who read the 2004 mammogram settled with the woman for a confidential amount of money. Fox Chase and its physician had refused offers to settle along with Albert Einstein for a total of $2 Million (which was the maximum amount available under the doctors’ insurance coverage), offering only $125,000. The woman’s lawyer had warned Fox Chase that if a jury ultimately awarded more than $2 Million, the woman would be eligible to pursue bad faith claims for failing to settle.

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Delaware’s overall cancer death rate ranks 11th in the Nation and there are lung cancer clusters around the Indian River power plant. Six zip codes near the Indian River power plant have shown an abnormally high rate of lung cancer that has caused state officials to create a “total exposure assessment monitoring” program. This program, which is still in the planning phase, will have individuals undergoing batteries of hair, blood and urine tests and have them wearing devices to measure air pollutants. The monitoring program is planned to last five years and cost $5 million. It will be funded by a combination of local, state and federal funds.

Delaware has been the home for chemical companies (it was known as the “Chemical Capital of the World”) and other industrial plants that may be the sources for toxic exposures. Delaware’s age-adjutsed cancer rate was also 6 percent above the national average and its death rate is 17 percent higher than the national average. Additionally, Delaware has some of the dirtiest air in the country. Additionally, in the Delaware medical community there have long been anecdotal stories of specific communities with unsually high rates of particluar cancers.

While exposure to toxins and pullatants can have an impact on cancer rates, it is also clear that various other factors can play a significant role. Smoking rates have a significant impact on cancer rates, as can excessive sun exposure. Stopping (or preferably never starting) smoking and wearing sun screen can go a long way to preventing the development of cancer.

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