August 25, 2022

Catastrophic Consequences of Delayed Cancer Diagnosis

Caroline Boulton has been told nothing can be done for her cancer now and says the NHS has let her down with her delays at every stage of her treatment contributing to her fast-growing stage-four breast cancer.

Ms Boulton had had several appointments for a mammogram which checks for early cancer signs canceled because of the pandemic in March and November 2020.

Late in 2021, she discovered a small lump and went to her GP who referred her to see a specialist urgently but that was when the delays began.

Ms Boulton who lives in Greater Manchester says that things didn’t move quickly enough and was really really slow.

"Between each appointment, each scan, there's been four-, five-, six-, seven-, eight-week waiting times and delays every time."

According to her she waited three weeks instead of the recommended two to see a consultant even though the referral letter came through "very quickly".

Ms Boulton says, "When I first found the lump, it was only pea-sized, by the time I got to see the consultant, it was the size of a tangerine."

Despite that her cancer was growing quickly, she was told it would be eight weeks before a mastectomy could be scheduled to remove her breast.

When she could finally see an oncologist seven months after finding the lump, scans showed that the cancer had spread to her liver - and there was no longer any treatment they could offer.

"I've now got stage-four cancer that I shouldn't have - and two years to live."

The oncologist told her she had 30 lesions on her liver and said there was nothing that could be done for her. It took two years from her first canceled mammogram to when she found out the devastating news.

Ms Boulton then informed her partner Wendy that her cancer had spread to her liver and was now incurable.

Figures leaked to the Health Service Journal and seen by BBC Newsnight:

  • 327,395 people are on England's cancer waiting list
  • Almost 40,000 have been waiting more than 62 days after a GP referral for suspected cancer
  • the number waiting more than 104 days, has doubled since June 2021, to over 10,000

Cancer screening, treatment and operations were canceled to free up staff and hospital beds during the pandemic and this created long waits for care and causing patients huge anxiety.

NHS England however says that the record numbers now coming forward with cancer symptoms shows that cancers are been detected earlier now more than before but that the demand is enormous.

It added; "we have written to local NHS services making clear that reducing cancer waits is a key priority, helping them redesign their care to meet the increased demand as well as investing billions in extra diagnostic and treatment capacity across the country."

A leading oncologist Prof Pat Price, from Imperial College London, says: "This is the worst cancer crisis of my lifetime. The waits for cancer treatment are the worst they've ever been - and they're getting worse. We have to get on and address this crisis. This is an absolute disaster."

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