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Patient dies after info-sharing error at Japan hospital delays cancer diagnosis for 4.5 yrs

Kawasaki City Hall is seen in this March 14, 2019 file photo. (Mainichi/Kazuo Ichimura)

KAWASAKI -- A suspected lung cancer diagnosis was not shared among doctors on two occasions, resulting in a fatal medical error that delayed the detection of cancer in a patient by about four and a half years, a municipal hospital here announced on Nov. 24.

    The patient in question died of lung cancer on Aug. 27. According to Kawasaki Municipal Ida Hospital in the city's Nakahara Ward, a Kawasaki resident in her 80s was hospitalized in December 2017 with a femur fracture and underwent a CT scan. A doctor in the diagnostic radiology department noticed the suspicion of lung cancer and compiled an examination report. However, the attending orthopedic surgeon reportedly did not read the report because the woman's fracture surgery had already been completed.

    In December 2021, the woman was hospitalized again for a lumbar compression fracture. The same radiologist who was in charge of her in 2017 prepared a report acknowledging the suspicion of lung cancer, but mistakenly assumed that her cancer treatment had already begun and failed to alert her attending physician, a different orthopedic surgeon from 2017. The surgeon reportedly only looked at the CT of the lumbar spine and failed to check the report.

    In May this year, the woman was again transported to Ida Hospital for suspected heart failure. Because of fluid in her lungs, a respiratory physician checked the two previous reports and found the description of suspected lung cancer. Hospital Director Daisuke Ito apologized, saying, "If she had started treatment earlier, she might have survived."

    (Japanese original by Hideaki Takahashi, Kawasaki Bureau)

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