Young Killygordon mother died after missed cancer diagnosis

The late  Melissa Hamilton with her husband Seamus.

The late Melissa Hamilton with her husband Seamus.

THE family of a young Killygordon mother of three who died of cancer after two opportunities to diagnose her were missed, has begun an action for damages at the High Court.

Melissa Hamilton (nee Connolly), 34, from Sallywood, Killygordon, died on September 8, 2011, nine days after her third daughter was delivered by Caesarean section. The High Court in Dublin heard today she first went to her GP complaining of pain in her right breast in December 2009.


She was referred to the breast clinic in Letterkenny General Hospital twice in 2010 but was not diagnosed on either occasion. She was finally diagnosed with invasive breast cancer on 22 August 2011 while pregnant with her third child. The little girl was delivered by Caesarean section on 30 August at 28 weeks. Mrs Hamilton had to undergo a hysterectomy following the birth and died on 8 September.

Liability was not admitted until 26 May this year. Her three daughters are now aged ten, six and three.

Senior Counsel Eugene Gleeson told the court that Melissa Hamilton was “a giver” and had worked since she was 13 years old. She looked after her children, cared for her parents and also worked for her brother, Garvan Connolly, who ran self catering accommodation locally.

The court heard she first went to her GP, Eileen Coyne, on 31 December 2009 complaining of soreness in her right breast. She was referred in January 2010 to the breast care clinic in Letterkenny, where she was told she had a benign cyst.

The court was told the examination and report was carried out by a Senior House Officer when it should have been carried out by a more senior doctor. By June 2010, the court heard the pain was worse and there was a discharge from her breast. She was referred to the breast clinic again and diagnosed with mastitis and prescribed antibiotics.

Her husband, Seamus, told the court that his wife was in a lot of pain but was relieved that nothing “more sinister” was going on.

In August 2011, she went to a locum GP who immediately referred her to the breast clinic. She was diagnosed with invasive cancer and a decision was made to deliver her baby by C-section.


The baby was very premature and was taken to Altnagelvin Hospital in Derry within an hour of her birth. Mrs Hamilton had to have a hysterectomy and remained in hospital where she died on 8 September.

The court heard the baby was born profoundly deaf but has had cochlear implants and is rapidly catching up with her sisters. The court action is to assess damages and to quantify past and future care.

The court heard Mr Hamilton, who was an engineer, had had to give up work and become a full-time mother and father to his three daughters.

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