Woman Says FedEx Lost Her Breast Cancer Sample

PHOTO: FedEx lost a package containing a womans tumor sample. It had been sent to a lab for further testing to help her decide whether to undergo chemotherapy.Justin Sullivan/Getty Images
FedEx lost a package containing a woman's tumor sample. It had been sent to a lab for further testing to help her decide whether to undergo chemotherapy.

Marline Van Duyne almost underwent chemotherapy without knowing whether she was among the 80 percent of people with her type of breast cancer who don’t need it.

After she underwent a preventive double mastectomy at McKay-Dee Hospital in Ogden, Utah, last month, Van Duyne’s tissue samples were FedEx-ed to a lab in Irvine, Calif. The lab had a special test that would reveal whether her cancer required chemotherapy to prevent its return.

But FedEx lost the sample, she said.

FedEx did not comment on Van Guyne's claim or answer ABCNews.com's questions about how many medical packages it usually ships, but offered this statement:"All of our customers’ shipments are important to us. We work directly with our customers to resolve any issues."

“I’m scared to begin with,” Van Duyne, 47, told ABCNews.com Thursday. “I don’t want to die because of this, because they lost my tumor. I’m going to tell them to give me chemo.”

Van Duyne, a grandmother of two living in Clearfield, Utah, said she woke up one morning in late January and thought she felt some pain on her left side. Doctors found a 1.8-centimeter tumor in her right breast. She said she chose to have a double mastectomy to lessen her risk of remission.

Her oncologist told her it was best to start chemotherapy within about a month of her surgery, but it might not be necessary at all given her particular type of cancer. There was a new test at Agendia lab in California that could help determine whether she was among the 80 percent of people who didn’t need chemotherapy or the 20 percent of people who did.

Van Duyne was scheduled to meet with Dr. Harold Johnson, an oncologist and hematologist, to discuss the test results and come up with a treatment plan on March 6, but they pushed the appointment back because the test results weren’t in yet.

The night before Van Duyne's rescheduled appointment this week, Johnson called to tell Van Duyne that FedEx had lost the package containing her breast tissue, she said. It never made it to the lab.

Though doctors performed a needle biopsy and know a lot about Van Duyne’s breast cancer, this additional test would have helped, said David Pittam, an administrator at Utah Hematology Oncology PC, where Johnson works.

The hospital that performed Van Duyne's double mastectomy mailed the tissue samples, but Pittam said his organization has since learned that the package was last scanned on Feb. 24 in Oakland, Calif.

“It’s not like you’re carrying a letter,” Van Duyne said. “It’s a human body part.”

She was scheduled to meet Johnson today to discuss her options, and she was planning to go through with the chemotherapy.

But on Thursday afternoon, McKay-Dee Hospital found that it had 20 pieces of Van Duyne’s tissue preserved in paraffin wax blocks, said hospital spokesman Chris Dallin. It sent another sample to the California lab on Thursday.

Van Duyne said her appointment has been pushed back until the results come in –- which should be within about a week.

“I don’t have to go in tomorrow,” she said, adding that she plans to file a lawsuit against FedEx.