Hospital issues apology after nurse has breast removed due to cancer misdiagnosis

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A Hospital Trust in South Yorkshire has apologised to a nurse who had a breast removed after being incorrectly told she had invasive cancer.

Speaking for the first time about her “anguish and horror” following her diagnosis and procedure at Barnsley General Hospital, Brenda Young had to live with one breast for around nine months as reconstructive surgery was delayed because of the Covid-19 pandemic.

The 65-year-old hospice nurse has instructed expert medical negligence lawyers at Irwin Mitchell to investigate her care under Barnsley Hospital NHS Foundation Trust and help her access the specialist support she requires.

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It all started when Brenda, who has family history of breast cancer, attended a routine screening appointment at Barnsley Hospital on February 3 last year.

Barnsley HospitalBarnsley Hospital
Barnsley Hospital

She was diagnosed with invasive cancer in her right breast following a biopsy and underwent a mastectomy on February 26.

However, following examination of breast tissue, it was believed that Brenda did not have cancer and this was later confirmed by a regional expert who looked into the specimens.

Brenda, who received the shocking news a week later, said: “I was devastated and extremely worried when I received my diagnosis. Although I’m a nurse and work in a hospice nothing prepares you for the news that you have cancer.

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“I underwent the mastectomy later that month. I was later advised that the samples taken showed that I didn’t have breast cancer at all. However, by this time it was too late and I had already undergone the mastectomy.

“Sadly, the pandemic meant that my reconstructive surgery was delayed until the end of 2020. During this time, I had to live with one breast which made me feel extremely uncomfortable and self-conscious.

“I felt frustrated that I had undergone removal of my breast for a cancer that I didn’t have, but then had to wait so long for reconstruction.

“As a key worker I had to return to work before my reconstruction. During this time, I tried to disguise my injury and the impact it was having on me to those I was looking after.

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“I was told about the fact that I didn’t have cancer around the time that the first lockdown started and therefore had to cope with my horror and anguish alone, without having free access to family and friends and other networks to support me. This was incredibly difficult.

“I know nothing can make up for what has happened but by speaking out I just hope that I can try and help prevent what happened to me happening to others.”

In a letter to Brenda, Jackie Murphy, the Trust’s director of nursing and quality, wrote: “On behalf of the Trust I would like to apologise that on this occasion the standard of care you received fell below that which you had a right to expect.”

She added the Trust had identified “actions and learning” which will be monitored through its governance procedures.

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Rebecca Hall, the specialist medical negligence lawyer at Irwin Mitchell representing Brenda, said they are now investigating the matter.

She said: “Understandably what happened to Brenda has not only had a physical effect but also a psychological impact on her. We welcome the Trust’s apology and pledge to learn lessons.”