Pa. Jury Awards $895K in Delayed Cancer Diagnosis Case

August 22, 2006

A Pennsylvania jury has awarded $895,000 in damages to a woman whose doctor was accused of failing to diagnose her with breast cancer when the disease was at an early stage, forcing her to undergo surgery and chemotherapy.

The Blair County civil court jury found Dr. Debra S. Pike of Roaring Spring negligent in treating 39-year-old Cynthia Storm of Hollidaysburg, who went to Pike in January 2002 after discovering a lump in her breast.

The doctor conducted mammogram and ultrasound tests, which did not detect a tumor. Storm continued to say she felt the lump during doctor visits in February and April 2002.

In October 2002, Pike said she felt a lump and sent Storm to a surgeon for a biopsy, which confirmed the mass was cancerous. It was determined the cancer had spread, prompting an operation and chemotherapy.

Medical experts testifying for Storm said she would not have needed the treatments if the cancer had been detected when she first visited Pike.

They said the delay in conducting a biopsy led to the radical surgery and chemotherapy, which dramatically affected Storm’s life. She was given drugs so strong they damaged her heart, they said.

The experts indicated there was a 50-50 chance the cancer will return within a 10-year period.

Experts for the defense, however, said Pike followed proper medical procedure by not referring Storm to a surgeon when mammogram and ultrasound tests did not show a tumor.

They also argued that the lump found in October was not the problem that prompted Storm to visit the doctor in January 2002.

The jury of seven women and five men took about four hours Friday to find that Pike was negligent and had caused harm to Storm.

It awarded Storm $770,000, including $250,000 for pain and suffering; $150,000 for loss of life’s pleasures; $100,000 for disfigurement; $50,000 for embarrassment; $20,000 for unpaid medical expenses and $200,000 for loss of earnings.

Storm’s husband, Christopher, was awarded $125,000 for loss of consortium.

The award was the third-largest in Blair County’s civil court in the past two years.

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