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Being Your Own Best Advocate: A Story of Falsified Mammogram Results

Sharon Holmes was shocked to discover a lump in one of breasts just three months after being cleared by her mammogram results. In a follow-up test doctors found that Sharon had aggressive stage 2 breast cancer that had already spread to her lymph nodes.What could have caused such a massive oversight by the doctors at Perry Hospital in Georgia, where Sharon had her first mammogram administered?Forgery, it turns out. Following an investigation into similarly inaccurate mammogram results at Perry Hospital, lead radiological technician Rachael Rapraeger confessed to falsifying results and pleaded guilty to ten misdemeanor charges of reckless conduct and one felony charge of computer forgery.For a year and a half Rachael had been falsifying mammogram test information to give all of her patients negative results. In ten cases, Sharon’s included, these results were wrong. Two of the ten women have since passed away from cancer. One, eighty-year-old Sara Bailey had to have one of her breasts removed because of the cancer’s rapid growth. All of these women suffered because they were not told the truth.Rachael told police that she had falsified the mammogram test results in order to save time. She had fallen behind in her work and she saw this as a shortcut to catch up. She never took into account the impact her decision would have on the lives of her patients.Rachael will now serve six months in a detention center, followed by a ten-year probation period during which she will not be allowed to work in health care.Sharon, thankfully, has now gone three years without her cancer reappearing. But she has lost some faith in her health care providers. “I’m thinking I’m doing what I’m supposed to do, getting my tests done, and then I find out someone else isn’t doing their job,” she said in an interview with the Associated Press.All of these women believed they were protecting themselves by getting tested. This unfortunate incident serves as a strong reminder that we have to always remain vigilant about our health, and when we suspect that something is being overlooked, to not be afraid to get a second opinion.Sources: CNN, “Former hospital technician behind bogus mammogram results gets jail time,” John Newsome and Eliott C. McLaughlin, April 16, 2014.The Big Story, “Former GA. Technician Falsified Mammogram Reports,” Kate Brumback, April 27, 2014.