Karen was told that a growth was benign when it was in fact cancerous; while she waited for it to be removed, the cancer spread so that her condition became terminal.
She came to Elizabeth Wickson for help when it was clear that the first diagnosis, by an external laboratory, had been wrong. Elizabeth was able to find her the answers she needed – Karen died a few years after the mistake had been made.
She first had problems with bleeding when she was 66, always a cause of concern after menopause and after an ultrasound, she saw a consultant. She was booked in for an urgent hysteroscopy and an endometrial biopsy because the lining of her uterus was found to be thickened. This took place three weeks later and a large polyp, or growth, was found.
Samples were taken and she was told that if the polyp was cancerous, she would need an urgent hysterectomy within three weeks.
The tests were sent out to an external company, who reported the polyp as being benign, but recommended further tests. When Karen had not heard the result after a month, she was told that it was benign but should be removed.
Cancer finally confirmed
When she had the operation two months later, the surgeon was concerned, but advised that the bleeding should now stop. It didn’t, so Karen asked for help again. She was then told the polyp had been cancerous – she had a hysterectomy within three weeks.
Investigations showed that not only was the polyp cancerous all along, but that she had serious cancer in the lining of her womb and pelvis. This had spread to her lymph glands in her back; Karen then had chemotherapy, followed by radiotherapy.
Mistaken diagnosis at the heart of the problem
Elizabeth said: “It’s clear that if her cancer had been diagnosed correctly at the start, she might not have needed such radical chemotherapy; if its spread had been caught earlier, the hysterectomy might have resolved the problem.
“I was glad to be able to support her to find the answers she needed; she suffered a good deal of pain and difficulty. That early mistake had a major impact on her treatment and on the rest of her life.”