Comox woman wants mammograms included in radiologist investigation

A Comox woman who lived with cancer for a year after the radiologist reading her mammogram said she was cancer-free is hoping the provincial investigation into CT scans will include mammograms as well.
Florence Smith of Comox was misdiagnosed in 2004 after a mammogram at St. Joseph's Hospital in Comox.

  • Feb. 22, 2011 6:00 p.m.

A Comox woman who lived with cancer for a year after the radiologist reading her mammogram said she was cancer-free is hoping the provincial investigation into CT scans will include mammograms as well.Florence Smith of Comox was misdiagnosed in 2004 after a mammogram at St. Joseph’s Hospital in Comox.

A year after being told by the radiologist that she was fine, she learned she had a very aggressive breast cancer.Smith went for mammograms at St. Joseph’s every year through the BC Cancer Agency’s Screening Mammography Program.In April 2004, she had a mammogram, and the radiologist said everything was fine, but then Smith received a phone call saying the screening showed an abnormality, she recalled.She was told to go for another mammogram.This time, the radiologist sent Smith a message saying she had nothing to worry about and she could go home, and he suggested she have an annual mammogram from then on, she explained.”The next year, I found out I had cancer,” she said. “I had actually seen it. When she held (the scan) up, I had seen the bright light and spiderweb. It had never been there before.”Smith’s doctor told her to go to Campbell River for her next mammogram, and a year after getting the all-clear from the radiologist at St. Joseph’s, her mammogram found “two bright lights and more spiderwebs than you could ever shake a stick at,” she said.In Campbell River, Smith was whisked in for an ultrasound, and she ended up having a mastectomy.For the next year and a half, she had chemotherapy every 21 days, and she had six weeks of radiation.”I was told that it would have been so unnecessary if my cancer had been caught,” said Smith. “I had a very aggressive cancer.”All I can say is how many women have had their lives put on hold because someone made a mistake? All I want is an investigation. It’s too late for me, but it’s not too late for the next young woman who goes in there, and there are too many of us who slipped through the cracks.”Smith emphasizes she has no complaints about the doctors and nurses at St. Joseph’s.”I have nothing bad to say about St. Joseph’s if they clean up that department,” she said. “We’ve got excellent doctors and some of the best specialists … I’ve dealt with them all, and they’re good, but their hands are tied if they don’t have the proper radiologist to read what the machines are telling them.”Dr. Doug Cochrane, chair of the B.C. Patient Safety and Quality Council, has been appointed by Health Services Minister Colin Hansen to investigate the activities of three radiologists who were reading scans in Comox, Powell River and Abbotsford.Smith wants mammograms to be included in the provincial investigation into the quality of CT scans, and she wants the investigation to be expanded to ensure the equipment is up to date.”When I had cancer, they told us if I would’ve caught it in time, I may not have had to have chemotherapy, but I had two lumps, and they were over an inch,” she said.  “It’s a tragedy. I was 61 years old, and I’m really hoping that the investigation will extend to mammograms and anything else.”Cumberland’s Yvonne Kafka has already called for a full judicial inquiry into radiology in B.C.Like Smith, in 2008, she was told she was cancer-free after a mammogram and ultrasound at St. Joseph’s, but she learned she had breast cancer after she insisted on having a biopsy.Patients are also encouraged to call St. Joseph’s at 1-877-336-1406 or call their family physician.writer@comoxvalleyrecord.com

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