Medical experts criticised over cancer patient's care

  • 05/09/2016
Cancer diagnosis (file)
Cancer diagnosis (file)

Two health professionals have been criticised for failing to provide appropriate care to a woman who later needed extensive surgery and radiotherapy for thyroid cancer.

Health and Disability Commissioner Anthony Hill says deficiencies occurred at the beginning of the woman's care, contributing to a delay in her diagnosis.

In a report, Mr Hill said the woman was referred by her general practitioner for an ultrasound on the right thyroid gland after noticing a lump in her neck.

Mr Hill considered that the sonographer did not follow accepted professional practice and scan the lymph nodes next to the thyroid gland.

He considered that the radiologist failed to query the absence of imaging of the local lymph nodes to ensure he had all the relevant information to make his assessment.

As well, the radiologist failed to interpret the scan as showing suspicious findings.

Mr Hill also concluded that the radiology service had failed to provide services to the woman with reasonable care and skill.

The service's protocol did not explicitly refer to the need to assess and/or scan lymph nodes adjacent to the thyroid.

About two years later, because of ongoing concerns, the woman requested a referral to a consultant and further tests confirmed she had papillary thyroid carcinoma.

Mr Hill made a number of recommendations.

Among them was that the Medical Radiation Technologists Board should consider taking steps to ensure that all New Zealand sonographers adopted a consistent approach to ultrasound scanning of the thyroid.