The family of a 49-year-old woman who died from allegedly misdiagnosed vulvar cancer (late diagnosis of her cancer) recently settled their medical malpractice claim against a large Pennsylvania hospital where the medical negligence was claimed to have occurred. The $2.4 million settlement was reached during mediation and was approved by a judge. The medical malpractice claim was filed while the woman was still alive but she died during the two years that the malpractice case was pending.
The Underlying Facts
In October 2008, the woman was referred by her gynecologist to the defendant hospital’s Women’s Vulvar Clinic for a biopsy to determine if the woman had cancer. Despite the gynecologist’s recommendation for a biopsy, the medical malpractice lawsuit alleged that a nurse at the Clinic stated that the woman’s chronic pain, discomfort, and her symptoms were not indicative of cancer. The woman was seen in the Clinic for almost two years during which time she continued to complain of symptoms that the Clinic treated with antibiotics. Finally, in July 2010, the Clinic performed a biopsy that determined that she had vulvar cancer that ultimately spread to her liver and bones despite treatment that included surgeries and chemotherapy.
The woman died from metatastic disease and Paget’s disease.
What Is Vulvar Cancer?
The vulva is the outer part of the female genitals. Vulvar cancer is a rare type of cancer that usually grows slowly over several years. It may start with precancerous cells on vulvar skin called vulvar intraepithelial neoplasia (“VIN”), or dysplasia. While not all VIN cases turn into cancer, it is best to treat it early.
Vulvar cancer does not cause symptoms initially but a physician should be consulted if there is a lump in the vulva, vulvar itching or tenderness, bleeding that is not the result of menstrual flow, or changes in the vulvar skin such as color changes or growths that look like a wart or ulcer.
A history of human papillomavirus (“HPV”) or a history of genital warts increases the risk of developing vulvar cancer. Treatment of vulvar cancer depends upon many factors and may be treated with surgery, radiation therapy, chemotherapy, or biologic therapy.
It is estimated that 4,700 women will be diagnosed with vulvar cancer and 990 women will die of vulvar cancer in 2013. From 2006 to 2010, the median age at death for vulvar cancer was 79. One in 359 women will be diagnosed with vulvar cancer during their lifetime. The overall 5-year relative survival rate for vulvar cancer for 2003 to 2009 in representative areas of the U.S. was 70.8%.
What Is Paget’s Disease?
Paget’s disease is a disorder that involves abnormal bone destruction and regrowth, resulting in physical deformity. The disease causes an abnormal breakdown of bone tissue after which there is abnormal bone formation that results in a larger but weaker bone with new blood vessels. The cause of Paget’s disease is unknown although it is suspected that there is a genetic component or that it may result from a viral infection early in life. Paget’s disease is more common in Australia, New Zealand, and Europe than it is in the United States. The most often involved bones in Paget’s disease are the arms, collarbones, legs, pelvis, spine, and skull, and it may occur in one or more skeletal areas of the body.
If you were injured as a result of medical malpractice in Pennsylvania, you should promptly seek the legal advice of a Pennsylvania medical malpractice attorney who may investigate your malpractice claim for you and file a medical malpractice lawsuit on your behalf, if appropriate.
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