RICHMOND, Va. (WWBT) - Another woman has come forward about her experience at the Allison Breast Center. She was shocked to discover that she is one of the patients listed in the Virginia Board of Medicine complaint. That complaint suspends the license of the facility’s owner, Dr. Michael John Bigg. The Board of Medicine accuses Dr. Bigg of misreading the mammograms of at least 18 women.
Inside this 64 page report from the Virginia Board of Medicine, it lists those women as letters of the alphabet.
“When I see patient J, I’m thinking oh my goodness this young woman actually, you know probably had cancer the first time she went in but was told she didn’t. And went back a second time and again was told she didn’t. And by the time she was diagnosed it was aggressive,” said Lisa, who asked that we not reveal her last name. She would learn soon after the report came out that she was patient J.
“To know that after reading the report that more than likely yes this was cancer all along and nothing was done to protect me. Where’s my protection? Where’s my doctor that’s supposed to have my best interest at heart of all his patients?” said patient J.
In its report, the Board of Medicine alleges that Dr. Michael John Bigg not only misread her mammograms but also “failed, contrary to sound medical judgment and acceptable standards of medical practice to appropriately access/work up, diagnose and manage” her case.
Patient J went to Dr. Bigg and the Allison Breast Center on Dec. 14 of 2017 after discovering a lump in her left breast during a self-check.
“He told me that I had a cyst and that usually, cysts go away in a couple of weeks, sometimes it might be a month, but it’s nothing to worry about,” she said.
She gave us her medical record from that visit where Dr. Bigg calls it a cyst, benign findings but asks to see her again for a follow-up ultrasound.
In its report, the Board of Medicine says the ultrasound actually revealed “a mass” - “highly suspicious for carcinoma.”
The Board says Dr. Bigg “Should have ordered a biopsy.” In fact, Patient J says she asked for one.
“He said we didn’t need to biopsy it because it was just a cyst. What was the harm in biopsying it to find out? Because that right there could have made all the difference in the world,” said patient J.
“It could have been a lumpectomy instead of a mastectomy?” On Your Side Investigator Rachel DePompa asked?
“Exactly. And I ended up with a double mastectomy and that’s a whole other mental toll,” said patient J.
She went back for that follow up three months later in March of 2018. The Board of Medicine says “again the ultrasound showed a highly suspicious mass” but it says Dr. Bigg “erroneously concluded” it was a “complex cyst.” He told patient J to come back for her annual exam, which would have been six months later.
“So, I went on with life as usual, but in the back of the head, something didn’t feel right. This did not feel comfortable and honestly, I go back now and could kick myself. Usually, I listen to my gut,” she said.
By the end of August, the mass ballooned, hurt and her breast was leaking fluid. During her appointment at Allison Breast Center on Sept. 18, Dr. Bigg told her it was simple mastitis or infection. He sent her to another doctor to have it looked over.
But the board of medicine says, “contrary to Dr. Bigg’s impression these findings represent the continued growth of breast cancer that should have been biopsied at the first appearance in 2017.″
Patient J was diagnosed with her stage 3 breast cancer two days after her last appointment with Dr. Bigg.
”If I was one person, you do this, it’s still gonna hurt me and I’m still gonna be frustrated because you missed it, but there’s more than me. So, what is going on with you?” patient J said.
NBC12 again reached out to Dr. Bigg’s attorney and are waiting to hear back. He has two attorneys. One is handling the medical board case and the other is handling a civil lawsuit. In a prior phone call with an attorney handling the civil suit, an interview was declined. In response to the civil lawsuit, which was filed by a patient listed in the medical board report, Dr. Bigg denies the claims. This is the statement from June 24: The practice has received requests from former patients for copies of their medical records and imaging and is working to respond to those requests in a timely manner that complies with state and federal privacy requirements. - Margaret Hardy, Sands Anderson
Patient J is considered cancer-free, but she feels far from free. She deals with constant pain from the removal of her lymph nodes, is still healing from the radiation and her reconstructive surgery is still not completed. She also has to have a PET scan every three months for five years.
“I have one coming up next week and I always have to hold my breath a week before because I don’t know what they’re gonna come back and say. That mental toll right there alone is more than you can ever imagine,” said patient J.
Patient J is thankful to whoever submitted her case to the board of medicine. She’s hired an attorney and is considering a lawsuit.
The calls and messages continue to pour into our newsroom from women struggling to get copies of their medical records from the now-closed Allison Breast Center.
By Virginia law, a medical office has approximately 30 days to respond to a request for copies of medical records.
Attorney Stephanie Grana, who’s handling several cases against the Allison Breast Center says continue to fax, email, call and request your records, but put a reminder in your calendar from the date of your first request because after 30 days you can ask the courts to subpoena your records.
There’s another timeline for those records to be provided and if those records are not provided you can go back to court. But she says, this is not just about getting your records.
She advocates that anyone who had a mammogram done at the Allison Breast Center in the last year needs to have that mammogram redone. She’s hearing from several women that insurance companies are working with them. She also says several area mammogram centers are also helping a lot of patients get retested.
“They are both seeing the numbers of women who were former patients of Allison Breast Center and they are working with women in terms of how much it costs to get that mammogram and they are working with women to submit that mammogram request to their insurance company,” said Grana.
You may need a copy of the medical board complaint to give to your insurance company to show why you may need a second mammogram within a year.
Here are ways you can contact the office:
- If calling the office is not working, also try to fax and email: To request your records, email firstname.lastname@example.org or send a fax to 804-285-3245.
- Here’s another email you can try: email@example.com
- NBC12 is also hearing from a few women who had luck mailing in an official medical release form to the Allison Breast Center office. Records were then released to the new facility administering breast exams. So, also try to mail your request.
- You can also try to go to the office on the hours listed in the phone message.
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