August 01, 2014

Lawsuit Over Neck Cancer Misdiagnosed by Smell

In December 2012, a physician assistant (PA) excised a 3 cm right neck mass from a patient. In perhaps one of the more bizarre steps taken in this case, the physician assistant than smelled the excised mass, declared it non-cancerous, and threw it out in the garbage.

Unfortunately, it was actually cancer which was correctly diagnosed 6 months later after the mass which had regrown was excised and sent to pathology by a doctor. The patient ultimately underwent a radical neck dissection and tonsillectomy suggesting patient had stage 4 tonsil cancer.

Additionally, in what is perhaps already a bizarre case, the patient ended up NOT suing the physician assistant who negligently misdiagnosed the cancer by smell.

Rather, the patient sued the United States government as the sole defendant because the PA was considered a contractor of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Health Resources and Services Administration.

I should mention that smelling a mass is not considered standard of care practice when evaluating a neck mass.

Medical Worker Couldn't Smell Cancer. Courthouse New Service. 7/31/14
Fauquier blog
Fauquier ENT

Dr. Christopher Chang is a private practice otolaryngology, head & neck surgeon specializing in the treatment of problems related to the ear, nose, and throat. Located in Warrenton, VA about 45 minutes west of Washington DC, he also provides inhalant allergy testing/treatment, hearing tests, and dispenses hearing aids.

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