A breast cancer patient who underwent a controversial mastectomy by a Solihull surgeon has spoken out on her ordeal after receiving a substantial payout after her cancer returned.
The 62-year-old woman is one of two patients opening their hearts for the first time over being recalled for surgery following an investigation into surgeon Ian Paterson.
Mr Paterson, who works at both Solihull Hospital and the private Spire Little Aston and Solihull’s Spire Parkway hospitals, is currently being investigated by the General Medical Council after his mastectomy practices were called into question by surgical colleagues.
An internal investigation discovered the surgeon was leaving a small amount of breast tissue around the cleavage, for cosmetic reasons, on some patients. Most surgeons follow national guidelines to not leave excess breast tissue as it could increase the risk of the cancer returning.
The 62-year-old, from Solihull, who only wishes to be called Mrs Stone, said Mr Paterson was responsible for a mastectomy to remove breast cancer in 2003 at Solihull Hospital.
But weeks later, an oncologist suggested she needed another operation as too much tissue had been left in the breast.
“I went back to Mr Paterson about this and he said he didn’t think more surgery was needed and he was perfectly happy with it,” said Mrs Stone.
“Mr Paterson said he liked to leave some tissue but said he could remove it if I wanted. Surgery isn’t like having your nails done and I thought that if my doctor was happy with it, then it was fine.
"Mr Paterson had been impressive and had a good bedside manner so I had been impressed by him.”
It was in November 2008, years after Mrs Stone had been discharged from checks at the hospital that she went for a routine mammogram and a nurse decided to check the operated-on breast, which is not the norm, as it had some tissue left in it.
But that vital random check showed up the re-emergence of breast cancer.
“It was like having a death sentence all over again and I felt it was my fault for not asking enough questions at the time,” added Mrs Stone.
“ I was booked in straight away at Solihull Hospital and four cancerous forms were taken away and I went through chemotherapy and radiotherapy. At the time I was completely dazed.”
An independent report into Mrs Stone’s case ruled that she was “almost guaranteed a reoccurrence of cancer” with the treatment she received.
Her case, which was settled out of court against Heart of England NHS Foundation Trust, was due to the patient’s breast cancer returning as a direct result of the cleavage-sparing mastectomy, said Ally Taft, head of clinical negligence at Alsters Kelley law firm.
Miss Taft added that there was a failure to follow up the patient’s post-operative progress with important mammograms.
“I was very badly let down by Mr Paterson and the trust,” said Mrs Stone. “I think Mr Paterson needs retraining and more close monitoring. There should have been better monitoring in place in the first place to review all cases.
"I wasn’t a one off. There are many more women having to go through more surgery. Someone should have been picked up on this a long time ago.”
Mr Paterson has said he does not wish to comment on the matter. He still works at Solihull Hospital but is no longer allowed to carry out “cleavage sparing” mastectomies.
He has attracted support from former patients, including Lynn Bullock, co-chairman of voluntary breast cancer charity Breast Friends Solihull, who has said the surgeon is “totally committed to the welfare and safety of the patients that he treats”.
West Midlands Cancer Intelligence Unit reviewed cancer recurrence rates of all Mr Paterson’s patients over the past 10 years. It said rates were in line with averages of between three and five per cent. One patient from Solihull was known to have suffered a recurrence of their cancer.
Another patient Jo Pitt, from Meriden, was missed off the patient recall as she was operated on in 1999 at Solihull Hospital, but approached doctors for a check-up after reading about the investigation in the Post.
Consultants booked Mrs Pitt in for another mastectomy within days in January this year, but she fears there are many other women like her who need help.
“My patient notes by Mr Paterson did not state that I had a ‘cleavage sparing’ mastectomy even though I had, so I slipped through the cracks,” said receptionist Mrs Pitt, aged 50.
“For the past 10 years, I have been walking around thinking I wasn’t at risk and that makes me angry.
“I was never given a choice about what type of mastectomy Mr Paterson was doing. I am now putting my life on hold again. This should have been done and dusted 10 years ago.”
Mrs Pitt is working with solicitor Nisha Sharma, from Russell Jones and Walker, on a legal case against Mr Paterson.
Solihull Hospital has urged patients treated by Mr Paterson in the last 10 years to return for screening and additional treatment.
A spokeswoman, said: “Senior clinicians have reviewed all of Mr Patterson’s patients’ notes and after an external review of these we immediately contacted those patients who were identified as requiring an urgent review.
“We have set up a system in our clinics to review those patients still being supported and should any former patient have concerns, we would encourage them to come forward.”