‘Shocking’ delays to brain tumour diagnoses in the UK will be investigated as part of a new drive to tackle the disease.
A study, funded by The Brain Tumour Charity, aims to discover how long it takes on average for adult brain tumour patients to be diagnosed after they first seek medical advice for their symptoms.
For one Flitwick woman, a last-minute diagnosis nearly cost her her life.
Estate agent administrator and grandmother Carol Rutherford consulted her GP when she began suffering from extreme tiredness towards the end of 2011.
Her GP believed the fatigue was caused by pain from osteoarthritis in her hip.
However, Carol experienced increasing memory loss and then problems with her vision, which an optician put down to migraine. Eventually, a friend, who is a nurse, became increasingly concerned about her memory and personality changes and said she should demand a brain scan.
Carol said her GP dismissed the idea and she was signed off work for two weeks, and she spent to Spain with her husband.
She said: “While there I “lost’ an afternoon when I got out of the car to go to a cashpoint and forgot where I was, where my husband was, what country I was in. It was three hours before he found me.”
The couple returned home two days before Carol was due to see the GP again, but she collapsed at home the next day and was admitted to Bedford Hospital.
She said: “Eventually, after much persuading by family and friends, they did an MRI scan and found the tumour. They said it was too large to operate and I would die within hours.
“But then a new doctor came on to A&E and suggested sending the scan to Addenbrooke’s Hospital. As a result I was taken there and a wonderful team saved my life.”
Since her surgery, Carol has raised money for the Brain Tumour Charity and is organising her third walk/run fundraiser for April 18.
The charity is carrying out a two-year project into diagnosis times as part of the its campaign to raise awareness of brain tumours and improve treatment of the disease.
Chief executive Sarah Lindsell said: “We hear so many shocking stories from patients whose brain tumours went undiagnosed for years after they first consulted a doctor about their symptoms.
“Many of them made numerous visits to their GP or saw several different doctors before they were finally referred for a scan. Far too often, they have ended up being diagnosed after a desperate trip to A&E.
“The research project we are funding should find out for the first time the real extent of the problem, why it happens and what can be done to make things better.”