An Oregon woman is suing doctors after a mix-up with her genetic test results lead to her receiving a double mastectomy and hysterectomy – which she didn’t need.
Last year, doctors told Elisha Cooke-Moore that genetic tests revealed she was at risk for developing breast and ovarian cancer.
The Gold Beach, Ore. native says she was given the devastating news that she tested positive for the MLH1 and BRCA1 gene mutations, as well as Lynch syndrome, a hereditary cancer syndrome, that made her predisposed to both breast and ovarian cancers.
Cooke-Moore was told that with her results she had a 50 per cent chance of developing breast cancer and an 80 per cent chance of developing ovarian cancer – and was given the option of undergoing both a preventative double mastectomy and hysterectomy.
After carefully weighing her options against her family history, Cooke-Moore received the surgeries, sending her into early menopause and leaving her with post-traumatic stress disorder.
Months later, she became unhappy with her mastectomy results, and at the suggestion of her lawyer, visited another doctor to discuss breast reconstruction.
According to her attorney, Christopher Cauble, once the doctor reviewed Cooke-Moore’s medical records, the 36-year-old was informed that her lab results were negative for the MLH1 and BRCA1 gene mutations and Lynch syndrome. The invasive and life-altering surgeries had been completely unnecessary.
“I’m permanently damaged,” Cooke-Moore told TIME magazine. “No amount of money will ever fix what they’ve done to me. Never.”
Cook-Moore has now filed a $1.8 million USD lawsuit against Curry Medical Practice and Curry Medical Centre where she received her surgeries.
While it’s uncertain how doctors could have confused her results, Cooke-Moore’s attorney believes the terminology used in the results of her MLH1 test could be the culprit. The results state that there were “variants of uncertain significance” on her test, a term which is used to mean it’s unclear whether or not the variations are linked to cancer.
“The explanation to me is that everyone has some kind of gene mutation, but these gene mutations do not constitute a positive test,” Cauble said in an email to TIME.
Despite being useful for patients with a strong family history of cancer, aside from the risk of misinterpretation there is also a small risk of false positives when receiving genetic testing.
Although she has endured severe emotional and physical pain, Cooke-Moore is eager to have Curry Medical Practice and Curry Medical Center be held accountable for their mistakes.
“I will not stand down,” she told the TIME.
At time of publication, Curry Medical Network has yet to issue a comment.