Doctors’ Failure to Timely Diagnose Lung Cancer Leads to $850,000 Settlement – Sahagun v. Aven

It is common knowledge that the earlier cancer is diagnosed, the greater the chance of survival. However, we continually see medical malpractice lawsuits where a treating physician failed to recognize the signs and symptoms of cancer in a timely manner. The Cook County medical malpractice lawsuit of Carmela Sahagun v. Allan Aven, M.D., et al., Case No. 08 L 5346, is yet another example of a failing to diagnose cancer in its early stages.

Forty-six year-old Carmela Sahagun presented to Dr. Aven, her primary care physician, complaining of a lump in her left breast as well as a hardness near her breast bone. In order to pinpoint the problem, Dr. Aven referred Sahagun for a CT scan of her chest. The diagnostic test returned signs of a 1.9 cm mass in her left lung; the radiologist further indicated in his report that he suspected the mass might be malignant.

Upon receiving the CT scan results, Dr. Aven appropriated consulted with a Dr. Loren, a surgeon, who recommended a breast biopsy to rule out breast cancer. In addition, Dr. Loren indicated that if the breast biopsy was negative for malignancy, then he would recommend a lung biopsy to rule out lung cancer. Dr. Loren then performed the breast biopsy on Ms. Sahagun, the results of which were negative. However, rather than preforming a lung biopsy, Dr. Loren dismissed Ms. Sahagun from his care and never saw her again.

Ms. Sahagun returned to Dr. Aven for further care and treatment. Over the course of the following year, Ms. Sahagun presented to Dr. Aven’s office on several occasions, complaining of a cough and chest pain at each visit. However, despite these complaints and despite Dr. Loren’s recommendation, almost a whole year passed before Dr. Aven finally ordered a lung biopsy. By this time, the lung biopsy revealed that Ms. Sahagun had Stage IV lung cancer.

Ms. Sahagun brought a lawsuit against both Dr. Aven and Dr. Loren, alleging that neither doctor had effectively made a timely diagnosis of her cancer. The medical malpractice complaint alleged that had either doctor ordered the lung biopsy in a timely fashion that her lung cancer would could have been identified when it was still at Stage I.

As it was, Ms. Sahagun’s lung cancer was not diagnosed until she was Stage IV. Despite undergoing chemotherapy and radiation treatments, she only has a 5% chance of surviving the next five years. Plaintiff’s medical experts contended that if the lung biopsy had been performed 14 months earlier, when it was likely still a Stage I, that her lung cancer could have likely been cured by surgical means. As it was, Ms. Sahagun was forced to undergo chemotherapy and radiation and missed a year of work due to their severe side effects. Ms. Sahagun is a single mother who earns $35,000 a year as an underwriter.

Rather than taking the cancer misdiagnosis lawsuit to trial, both defendants agreed to a structured settlement of $850,000. Of that settlement, Dr. Loren’s insurance will contribute $600,000, with Dr. Aven contributing $250,000. This division of monetary contributions seems to indicate that all parties agreed that the surgeon’s, Dr. Loren, actions were more grossly negligent than those of Dr. Aven, the primary care physician. Yet it would seem that both defendant doctors contributed to the delay in diagnosing Ms. Sahagun’s cancer.

For more than 35 years, Chicago’s Kreisman Law Offices has been handling failure to diagnose cancer lawsuits for individuals and families in and around Chicago, Cook County, and surrounding areas, including Glenview, Burr Ridge, Woodridge, Harvey, Tinley Park, and Elgin.

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