Mysterious form of breast cancer crops up in three Castro Valley women

The Associated Press
Saturday December 15, 2001

CASTRO VALLEY — Within a 10-month period in 1999, three women who worked in the same office at Eden Medical Center were diagnosed with inflammatory breast cancer, a very rare and aggressive type of the disease that strikes just a few dozen women in the Bay Area every year. 

One of the women died last month. Now, the other two are trying to unravel a medical mystery, and they suspect toxic materials in the building where they had handled the hospital’s billing for more than 13 years. 

The suit, filed in Alameda County Superior Court this week, says the work environment led to various cancers and other illnesses. It also argues the hospital fired the employees for reporting the problems. The suit asks for unspecified monetary damages for lost wages and medical expenses. 

Eden spokeswoman Cassandra Phelps denied the allegations, saying hospital and state health officials studied the building but came up with no problems another than an inadequate ventilation system that was later fixed. 

The employees were not terminated, she said, but rather offered several options, including other positions, after billing services were contracted to an outside company. All of them declined the offers, she said.