top of page

Doctors dismissed red flag cancer sign


Medics repeatedly dismissed a mother's breast cancer symptoms as a harmless cyst.


Denise Johnson, 55, was sent home from hospital with antibiotics after showing doctors a lump in her right breast. She had been referred to Stafford County Hospital under the two-week urgent cancer referral scheme, but medics did not take a biopsy. A mammogram and ultrasound were classed as "indeterminate" before the results were downgraded following a review by a surgeon, and Denise was allowed to go home. However, the mum of three continued to be concerned about the lump and even raised her concerns with doctors on four separate occasions. And more than two years later, a GP referred Denise to a breast clinic where tests showed the lump had more than doubled in size to 3.8cm. She was diagnosed with breast cancer in May 2021 and told the devastating news that the disease had spread to her lymph nodes. The healthcare assistant, who is from Blyth Bridge, Staffordshire, had surgery to remove cancerous tissue and lymph nodes as well as radiotherapy. As a result of her treatment, Denise developed lymphedema – a chronic condition that causes swelling in the body’s tissue. She instructed expert medical negligence lawyers to investigate her care and University Hospitals of North Midlands NHS Trust, which runs County Hospital, admitted a breach of duty. The Trust admitted the delay led to Denise’s chances of surviving the cancer being reduced by almost half. Following treatment Denise now has to have annual mammograms to check that her cancer has not returned. She said: “Although I attended routine mammograms, I also regularly checked my breasts as you can never be too careful. When I was told by the hospital that I had a cyst and didn’t require further treatment, I felt reassured and relieved. “Deep down I was still worried but had no reason not to believe what I’d been told. However, as time went on, I started to get more worried especially as the appearance of the lump was changing and it started getting bigger. “By the time of my second referral to the breast clinic I was really concerned but nothing prepared me for the news I had cancer. It was absolutely devastating, not only for me but I also worried for my family.” After she found a lump, Denise was referred by her GP in January 2019 but following a mammogram and ultrasound, Denise was told she had a cyst. At a hospital appointment a doctor told Denise she didn’t require surgery and to visit a GP if the cyst became infected. Denise visited a GP in October 2019 after becoming concerned about the lump but was again told it was a cyst and was given antibiotics. Denise also sought medical advice in February and March 2021 but on both occasions she was sent home with more antibiotics. Following a further appointment in May 2021, a GP referred her to a breast clinic where she was finally diagnosed with breast cancer. Denise said: “I struggled to come to terms with my diagnosis but also whether more could have been done to diagnose and treat it sooner. One of the hardest things to accept was that my chance of survival had dropped quite dramatically because of the diagnosis delay. “The treatment was difficult and the side effects still live me now. Before my cancer I used to be a lot more relaxed and outgoing but now I’m a lot more anxious, especially as to whether it will come back. I still live in pain and my lymphedema means I’m not as active as I was nor as confident in myself.” An NHS report found the “missed opportunity” to diagnose and treat Denise’s breast cancer in 2019 had reduced her chance of survival from 98 per cent to 57 per cent. The Trust apologised for its care failings and will pay out compensation at a future date. Denise is now using Breast Cancer Awareness Month to raise awareness of the signs of the disease. She added: “I just hope that by speaking out and sharing my experience I can help others. While there were delays in diagnosing my cancer, it’s vital that women not only continue to attend screening appointments but also carry out regular checks. If they feel something isn’t quite right they should trust their body and instinct and seek a second opinion if needed.” Catherine Buchanan, a lawyer at Irwin Mitchell, said: “Denise and her family have faced an incredibly tough few years coming to terms with her diagnosis and whether she would survive her cancer. “Understandably they had a number of concerns about the care Denise received and whether more could have been done to diagnose the disease earlier. Sadly, our investigation validated those concerns with the Trust admitting worrying failings in Denise’s care.”


13 views0 comments

Комментарии


bottom of page