30 April 2015
Cancer Mum Saved By ‘Dr Google’
A mother discovered she had a potentially fatal skin cancer after Googling symptoms which were dismissed by her GP for more than a decade.
Annette Hall, 41, turned to the internet search engine in desperation after her doctor repeatedly told her the seeping sore on her wrist was a harmless bout of eczema.
It wasn’t until 12 years after Annette – who had a family history of skin cancer - first visited her doctor that a specialist finally diagnosed the life-threatening condition.
Annette, from Shinfield, Reading, said: “I went to see my doctor so many times over the years time but I was consistently told that I had eczema – even though my mother was diagnosed with skin cancer.
“At first I believed my doctor, you always think the doctor knows best but when things were not improving I knew it wasn’t eczema but I didn’t know what else to do.
“I got so desperate I even started to Google my symptoms, everything I read suggested I had skin cancer but the doctor just wouldn’t accept it was anything more than a skin irritation. I have never been more angry than when I found out I was right all along.”
Annette first visited her doctor in January 2001 after she noticed a small pea-sized rash on her left wrist which had become itchy and uncomfortable.
Her GP diagnosed the rash as a minor case of eczema and issued the patient with a steroid cream and assured her the symptoms would decrease and the mark would fade.
However despite applying the cream regularly in the months following the diagnosis the mark continued to itch, expand in size and even started to bleed.
The nursery nurse booked another appointment at the surgery in March 2001 and was prescribed a different cream but her symptoms continued to worsen.
Annette – whose mother also had skin cancer – rebooked a third visit to see her doctor but despite highlighting her family history she was again told the mark was eczema a nothing sinister.
Eventually Annette became so exasperated at her diagnosis that she gave up visiting her GP for five years until August 2006 when the rash on her wrist became even worse.
By this time the mark had tripled in size to approximately four centimetres and had developed into an open sore which was itchy and bleeding regularly.
Annette asked her doctor if the mark could be skin cancer citing her mother’s cancerous skin rash years earlier and highlighted internet research she had conducted which supported her cancer fears.
But yet again the patient was advised it was simply an aggressive form of eczema brought on by stress and told her not to attempt to diagnose herself.
Annette continued to visit her doctor’s surgery a further seven times complaining of a host of symptoms including weight loss, cold sweats, insomnia and achy and pains before she was finally referred to a demonologist in January 2013.
At the first meeting the consultant dermatologist at Royal Berkshire Hospital suspected the mark could be cancerous and took a biopsy before confirming her lesion was skin cancer.
Annette said: “With my family history and everything I had seen online I knew that I was likely to have skin cancer but I had been dismissed so many times that I had began to doubt myself.
“When I was finally referred to the dermatologist she seemed to know straight away.
“When I found out that the mark on my left wrist was skin cancer I felt extremely angry and frustrated at the treatment I had received at the hands of my GP.
“I had been to see him on a number of occasions with this mark and a list of symptoms which he should have noticed yet he did nothing and if anything was very dismissive of my concerns.
“By the time the cancer was finally diagnosed many years later it had grown significantly and which left a lot more skin needed to be removed leaving me with an unnecessarily large scar and requiring significant physiotherapy to regain the movement in my thumb.
“To make matters worse I am still having pain with the wrist and have been told my doctors I may need to have the nerve cut which would leave me with significant mobility problems in my left hand.”
Annette – who has now instructed law firm Slater & Gordon to launch a civil case – is now urging others to seek a second opinion if they disagree with a medical diagnosis.
She said: “I trusted my doctor and believed he would be able to correctly diagnose my condition but I was sadly mistaken. I only wish I had gone elsewhere and sought different advice. I would encourage anyone who is unhappy with a medical diagnosis to speak to another doctor as even medical professionals can make mistakes.”
Paul Sankey, clinical negligence lawyer with Slater & Gordon who are representing Mrs Hall, added: “Annette was put on the wrong treatment path after her doctor failed to diagnose her skin cancer – which in turn put her through the pain and distress she later had to endure.
“It is deeply shocking that it took more than ten years of repeated visits for Annette’s doctor to finally refer her to a dermatologist who was able to quickly diagnose the issue.
“If she had been referred and correctly diagnosed earlier she would have avoided years of unnecessary distress as well as reducing the risk of the complications she has since faced.”
Paul Sankey is a Senior Clinical and Medical Negligence Solicitor leading the Slater and Gordon Lawyers Clinical Negligence team in London.
If you or a loved one have had a late diagnosis of cancer due to clinical or medical negligence, call Slater and Gordon Lawyers for a free consultation on freephone 0800 916 9049 or contact us online.
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