This a sad story. A 55 year Spotsylvania County (VA) woman noted a lump in her breast during self- examination. Wisely, she went to her family doctor who ordered a mammogram, which was reported as negative.

The patient returned to her family doctor 7 months later to report the lump had grown from the size of a peach pit to that of a lemon. The family doctor referred the patient to a specialist who diagnosed the lump as cancerous. The patient underwent a bilateral mastectomy, chemotherapy, and radiation treatment, but died two years later due to the spread of the breast cancer to her stomach, pancreas, and brain.

The lawsuit (Estate of Eleanor Browder v. Dr. Donna Gamache) alleged that the family doctor should have referred the patient to a specialist for appropriate care and treatment at the time the mammogram was ordered. The failure to make that referral delayed the appropriate diagnosis and treatment by 7 months.

After 5 days of testimony, the jury awarded the patient’s husband of 27 years and two adult children $212,000 for medical bills, $785,000 for economic losses (the patient worked as a nurse), and $6.5 million for loss of companionship and solace.

My Take: Family practitioners are an important part of America’s health care system. However, when cancer (breast or otherwise) is suspected…get to a specialist for accurate diagnosis and treatment.

Dan Frith
Dan Frith

Dan Frith has over 25 years of experience representing individuals and families in cases of medical malpractice throughout Virginia. He has been named "Best Medical Malpractice Attorney" by Roanoker Magazine and is a member of the Million Dollar Advocates Forum. To speak with Dan, contact him by email at