Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Breast Complaint a Misdiagnosis?

Now I am wondering whether "Breast Compliant" was a misdiagnosis? I am sure an accurate diagnosis would be hard to come by in early America and rural Tennessee especially. The James Forgey and Margaret Caldwell family may have been completely decimated by Tuberculosis which was commonly known as "Breast Compliant" in early America. Or could it have been breast cancer? Four Forgey sisters all are described as dying of  "Breast Compliant".  TB sometimes spreads to the ducts and nodes of the breasts causing lesions. Could breast cancer lesions be mistaken for TB lesions? I would think that could be a possibility. Did the women have a cough? No one gave the details of their symptoms so it's impossible to say.
I wondered how common it would have been for that many members of one family to die of TB? My great-grandmother Isis Browning-Forgey died of TB and remained at home with her children until her death. None of her children caught TB from her. I found this about the famous literary family the Brontes: "Anne and Emily Brontë and other members of the Brontë family of writers, poets and painters were struck by TB. Anne, their brother Branwell, and Emily all died of it within 2 years of each other.Charlotte Brontë's death in 1855 was stated at the time as having been due to TB, but there is some controversy over this today." It is possible the Forgeys contracted TB from one another. Their only brother James Reynolds Forgey died at age 44 of unknown causes. It appears that no one lived until the age of 50.
A fifth daughter may have died of the same thing. Here are the dates for all the Forgey daughters (except Sally, I don't have any death info for her)

  1. Margaret Forgey (1794-1817) died age 23 (don't know her cause of death?)
  2. Mary Forgey (1796-1833) died age 37 of  "Breast Complaint"
  3. Ellen Forgey (1798-1837) died age 39 of  "Breast Complaint"
  4. Betsy Forgey (1805-1837) died age 32 of  "Breast Complaint"
  5. Rachel Forgey (1812-1837) died age 25 of  "Breast Complaint"
  6. Matilda Miller (1802-1839) died age 37  (don't have her cause of death?)
Looking at the years of death I see 3 in 1837, which would point to a contagious disease, like TB. All who died of  "Breast Complaint" died in the 1830's. It's difficult to say if they were diagnosed correctly? They may have died of something hereditary, such as breast cancer; or, may have been TB after all? It's very troubling when you think about the short life expectancy of this family line. My own Forgey line tended to live into old age.

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