A consultant surgeon who removed a woman's breast unnecessarily after mistakenly diagnosing cancer told her the loss was not as bad as divorce, a professional conduct committee heard yesterday.

A consultant surgeon who removed a woman's breast unnecessarily after mistakenly diagnosing cancer told her the loss was not as bad as divorce, a professional conduct committee heard yesterday.

William Thomson performed the mastectomy on the woman aged 44 without followingcorrect diagnostic procedures, the General Medical Council was told.

When pathology tests revealed the operation had been unnecessary, Mr Thomson allegedly told the woman she was "lucky" when he broke the news. The patient, referred to as Mrs A, from Lanarkshire in Scotland, said: "He more or less told me, 'You're lucky you don't have cancer. Get on with your life'.

"He said it wasn't like losing a child or going through a divorce. When I came out of the room I went to pieces."

Mr Thomson, of Glasgow, is accused of serious professional misconduct for failing to confirm his diagnosis of breast cancer with a biopsy, going ahead with the operation without obtaining his patient's consent and making "insensitive and inappropriate" comments to her afterwards.

Mrs A was referred to Hairmyres hospital in East Kilbride by her GP after she discovered a lump in her right breast in October 1997. She arranged to see Mr Thomson, who diagnosed cancer after performing a mammogram and ultrasound scan.

He went ahead with the operation on 8 November 1997 without performing a pre-operative biopsy to confirm the diagnosis.

Mr Thomson claimed he acted quickly out of compassion for Mrs A because she was very worried. "She was extremely upset and very anxious," he said. "The first option I gave her was to come back to the breast clinic the following Monday for a biopsy. She said, 'I can't wait, I want something done now'."

Mr Thomson said he felt "awful" when he discovered his diagnosis had been incorrect. "I had injured the woman and I felt very responsible."

Mr Thomson admits failing to do a biopsy and having insufficient medical information to perform the operation, but denies failing to obtain his patient's permission or making inappropriate and insensitive comments. The hearing was adjourned until today.

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