Receiving a breast cancer diagnosis is gut-wrenching and life changing. Treatment often includes chemotherapy, radiation, and surgery in the form of either a lumpectomy to remove the tumor or a mastectomy to remove the entire breast. Medical errors before, during or after a mastectomy can be catastrophic to patients and family members already coping with a cancer diagnosis.
What’s Involved in a Mastectomy?
A mastectomy involves removal of the breast. It may be recommended as a treatment option for various stages of breast cancer. It can also be performed prophylactically if a woman is at a high risk of developing breast cancer.
There are a few different types of mastectomy procedures, depending on the extent of the woman’s cancer, risks of reoccurrence and personal preference. For instance, a total mastectomy involves removal of the breast and most of the overlying skin.
A modified, radical mastectomy procedure involves the removal of the breast, overlying skin tissue and lining over the chest muscles. Several lymph nodes in the armpit are also usually removed.
Although it is not performed as often today, a radical mastectomy is also an option. The procedure involves, removing the breast, overlying skin and the chest muscle.
Newer procedures may also be an option for some women. Mastectomy procedures have been developed to avoid removing the overlying skin and nipple. These types of tissue sparing procedures are helpful for women who wish to undergo breast reconstruction.
Although specific techniques and procedures may vary, a mastectomy often involves a creation of a skin flap, axillary lymph node removal, insertion of drains and incision repair. Proper technique and monitoring are critical for the best possible outcome and to prevent complications.
Medical Malpractice Involving Mastectomy
Medical negligence involving a mastectomy can occur before, during or after the surgery, and for a variety of reasons. For example, the surgical team needs to review the patient’s chart, pre-op tests, and risks of complications. A plan must be in place for the surgical technique that will be used, as well as a contingency plan if complications develop. Poor planning can lead to increased risk of complications including life-threatening problems.
Mistakes and negligence also can result from poor surgical execution and postoperative care. For example, lack of follow-up care or monitoring can increase a person’s risk of infection.
Regardless of the cause of medical negligence, the consequences of medical mistakes involving a mastectomy can be traumatizing, painful and even life-threatening and may include:
Unnecessary surgery: Having a mastectomy can be upsetting even if it is used to treat cancer. But when a mastectomy is performed unnecessarily, it is devastating. Unnecessary surgery can result from misread pathology reports or even something as simple as a paperwork mistake. When a mastectomy is performed unnecessarily, there is no way to reverse the surgery. Breast reconstruction using an implant would need to be completed.
Flap narcosis: During a mastectomy, a skin flap is often created to allow for reconstruction and placement of an implant. Flap narcosis involves the death of the flap of skin tissue. It can occur due to a lack of oxygen and blood supply to the tissue. A lack of adequate pre-operative planning and poor surgical technique can increase the chances of flap narcosis. Flap narcosis can lead to a delay of postoperative adjunct treatment, which can affect survival. It can also cause a delay in breast reconstructive surgery.
Damage to the nerves: If the nerves are damaged during a mastectomy, it can result in chronic pain, numbness and a decreased range of motion. Depending on the severity of the nerve damage, it can also interfere with a woman’s ability to perform activities of daily living.
Catastrophic infections: An infection at the incision site or wound can occur for a variety of reasons including poor antiseptic technique and inadequate postoperative monitoring. Wound infections can lead to sepsis and become life-threatening.
Medical errors involving a mastectomy can lead to disfigurement, chronic pain, limited movement, and death. The consequences can go beyond physical issues. Emotional and financial concerns can also develop as a result. In some cases, mastectomy mistakes lead to a delay in other treatment, such as chemotherapy. Reconstruction of the breast can also be adversely affected.
If you or a loved one has had a mastectomy and suffered devastating injuries or death due to medical negligence, we may be able to help. Please call our office at 312-698-3694 for a free consultation with one of our top-rated attorneys.