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Uterine cancer liability a concern for gynecologists

Gynecologists may underestimate the risk a patient has uterine cancer. That is the claim made by researchers with a recent study through Yale University. The claim is a serious one as the failure to diagnosis this disease prior to certain procedures can result in the spread of undetected uterine sarcomas.

In the past, the use of power morcellators to pulverize uterine tissue was blamed for the spread of this disease. Current data presented by these researchers finds all gynecological surgical devices can play a role in the spread of undetected uterine sarcomas.  

Need for research: Lawsuit provides example

A patient recently sued her gynecologist after he conducted a minimally invasive hysterectomy. Instead of using a power morcellator, he conducted the procedure with manual morcellation. The physician had over fifteen years of experience with this procedure prior to seeing this patient.

Before conducting the procedure, the physician preformed an ultrasound and endometrial biopsy. The lab returned the biopsy results as benign. The doctor noticed discoloration during the procedure. As a result, he sent a frozen specimen for review. The lab stated the specimen was “Spindle Cell Neoplasm” with further diagnosis after additional studies. The physician interpreted these results as benign. Later, it became clear the lab intended an inconclusive result.

The patient alleges her previously undiagnosed endometrial stromal sarcoma spread throughout her abdominal cavity because of the procedure. She claims that had he ceased after the specimen was tested and waited for further diagnosis, the cancer would not have spread. Experts within the gynecological field expressed support for the physician, stating the physician operated within the accepted standard of care at the time.

Application of research: Standard of care could change

Although the physician in question above likely followed the applicable standard of care, this legal standard can change. The researchers with the study noted above call on the addition of clinical guidelines to encourage further evaluation prior to procedure in certain situations. The study could result in a change to the acceptable standard of care for gynecologists when conducting hysterectomies and myomectomies.

A failure to follow the accepted standard of care can result in potential liability in the event the patient is injured. Physicians that face such accusations are wise to seek legal counsel. An attorney can build a case to protect your profession as well as your personal reputation.