Nurse practitioner misreads genetic testing results, causing unnecessary hysterectomy and double mastectomy

A woman in her 30s had an annual exam with her obstetrician/gynecologist (OB/GYN), and discussed her family history of cancer. The doctor and patient agreed to genetic testing to assess the risk of breast and other cancers.

According to her medical malpractice lawsuit, the genetic testing for cancer risk came back negative, but the OB/GYN nurse practitioner misread them, and informed the patient that she had the MLH1 gene mutation and Lynch syndrome.

The National Institutes of Health identifies the MLH1 gene having the normal function of making a protein involved in DNA repair. With a genetic mutation, it can cause Lynch syndrome, ovarian cancer, and other cancers. Lynch syndrome increases the risk of several types of cancer, including colorectal cancer (cancer of the large intestine and rectum), endometrium, ovaries, stomach, small intestine, liver, gallbladder duct, upper urinary tract, and brain.

As a result of the troubling news—even though the patient had not developed any type of cancer—the nurse practitioner recommended preventative (prophylactic) surgery including a hysterectomy, double mastectomy, and reconstructive surgery. The nurse practitioner referred the young woman to a gynecologist for the hysterectomy, and a surgeon for the double mastectomy and reconstruction procedure.

Unfortunately, neither the gynecology nor surgical specialists independently verified the genetic testing results. Instead, the gynecologist and surgeon relied on the nurse practitioner’s faulty interpretation of the genetic test results.

These medical mistakes caused this lady to go through needless surgeries, including a total hysterectomy and a prophylactic nipple-sparing mastectomy along with breast implants. Her terrible healthcare experience continued with another 10 corrective surgeries to manage complications.

What you can do

Based on my experience in handling many medical malpractice cases in which misdiagnosis was a key issue, I always recommend that patients get a second opinion before proceeding with any recommended surgery.

You can start improving your own safety as a patient by asking your doctor, physician assistant, or nurse practitioner for a printed copy of all test results. This includes bloodwork, genetic testing, radiology interpretation, or a pathology report from a biopsy. Review the report yourself and ask questions.

Next, if your healthcare provider recommends a serious operation or treatment based on the test results, be polite, but open, and explain that you would like to get a second opinion. Request a set of your medical records to take with you.

Armed with your medical records and test results, select and schedule a second opinion with a physician that you choose. I recommend selecting a second opinion doctor from a different practice group or system. This reduces the temptation that the second opinion doctor just rubberstamps the first provider’s recommendation, with little independent thought.

We are here to help

If you or someone you care for his been seriously injured as a result of misdiagnosis or medical malpractice, call Painter Law Firm, at 281-580-8800, for free consultation about your potential case.


Robert Painter is a medical malpractice and wrongful death attorney at Painter Law Firm PLLC, in Houston, Texas. He is a former hospital administrator who devotes his law practice to investigating and filing lawsuits on behalf of seriously injured patients and their families. In 2012, he was recognized by Martindale Hubbell with the prestigious AV designation.

Robert Painter
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Robert Painter

Robert Painter is an award-winning medical malpractice attorney at Painter Law Firm Medical Malpractice Attorneys in Houston, Texas. He is a former hospital administrator who represents patients and family members in medical negligence and wrongful death lawsuits all over Texas. Contact him for a free consultation and strategy session by calling 281-580-8800 or emailing him right now.