A Virginia breast imaging center recently lost its FDA-conferred certificate for mammography. Officials pulled the Allison Breast Center's certificate after noticing irregularities in the facility's exams. According to the Virginia Board of Medicine, the facility missed at least eight cases of breast cancer.
These cases of breast cancer misdiagnosis delayed treatment for the patients in question. One of the misdiagnosed women recently celebrated completion of her chemotherapy regimen. The woman, Catherine Akers, said one of the cancer drugs left her with heart failure. It is unclear whether earlier diagnosis would have prevented this side effect.
With Proper Diagnosis, Breast Cancer Is Survivable
90% of breast cancer patients survive five years or more after diagnosis. However, if the cancer is not caught in an early stage, that survival rate drops as low as 27%. This drop in survival can be attributed to a number of factors. With more advanced cancer, treatment options may be limited. And with fewer treatment options available, the cancer may be less responsive.
Regardless of the reason, the best outcomes occur when breast cancer is caught early. When diagnosis is delayed, it is possible for breast cancer to become fatal. Thus, the Allison Breast Center's failure to catch these cases exposed the patients in question to serious risks.
Breast Cancer Misdiagnoses Traced to One Doctor
According to a U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) statement, the Allison Breast Center only had one interpreting physician. Dr. Michael Bigg was solely responsible for each diagnosis at the facility.
The Virginia Board of Medicine compiled a report on Dr. Bigg's activities over the years. Evidence in the report shows multiple medical mistakes from Dr. Bigg starting as early as 2015. Some of these mistakes involved failing to order appropriate tests. But in other cases, Dr. Bigg saw clear evidence of breast cancer and failed to diagnose or investigate it.
Dr. James Khatcheressian is an oncologist at the Virginia Cancer Institute. In an interview, he would not ascribe these mistakes to simple human error. Dr. Khatcheressian called Dr. Bigg's failures a "pattern of misdiagnoses."
I don't think he should be allowed to practice radiology and certainly any type of medicine. That's my personal opinion.The Virginia Cancer Institute
Misdiagnosing Physician and Facility Lost Credentials
The Virginia Board of Medicine revoked Dr. Bigg's medical license in May 2020. The Board Brief explained continued practice by Bigg could be "a substantial danger to public health and safety."
After Dr. Bigg's license was revoked, the FDA asked the Allison Breast Center to participate in an Additional Mammography Review (AMR). This review would have determined if the facility failed to comply with the Mammography Quality Standards Act. The Allison Breast Center failed to respond to this request. As a result, the facility's mammography certificate was revoked in August 2020.
These disciplinary actions rendered both the facility and Dr. Bigg unable to legally see patients.
Breast Cancer Patients Now Suing While Imaging Center Requests Grace and Patience
As a result of Dr. Bigg's medical mistakes, at least six women are suing. Catherine Akers is one of them.
In a response to one of the lawsuits, Bigg claimed he did not violate the standard of care. He also denied any responsibility for the injuries sustained by the woman who filed against him. His lawyer told one news outlet that Dr. Bigg had saved the lives of countless patients. Attorney Edward McNelis also implied the legal process would exonerate Dr. Bigg.
On the Allison Breast Center's website, we found a lengthy statement from Dr. Bigg's wife. Gillian Bigg claims her husband is being held to a higher standard than "mammography is able to sustain."
Mrs. Bigg states "this has been difficult for all of us here at Allison Breast Center." She goes on to request grace and patience from the facility's former patients. Many of those patients are currently working to get second opinions. At least a handful of them are currently undergoing or just completing delayed breast cancer treatment.
We cannot know how Mrs. Bigg's words have been received by all former patients. But, we do have one statement from Catherine Akers.
It's nice to hold him accountable with the lawsuit.Former Allison Breast Center Patient
It seems whatever grace Akers may have for the Biggs, it has not motivated her to stop pursuing justice.
If you or a loved one have experienced a similar situation, you should consider seeking legal guidance. You can sign up for a free, no-obligation breast cancer misdiagnosis legal consultation here.