Doctors laughed at me when I said I feared cancer... now I'm dying
- Ex-nurse labelled 'hysterical' by surgeons after she asked for lump in her breast to be removed
Last updated at 7:54 AM on 21st July 2011
Catherine Calland, 65, was wrongly given the all-clear after a series of tests six years ago.
Although she told medics she had a ‘bad feeling’ about the lump on her left breast, she claims she was laughed at. Just one year later, Miss Calland was diagnosed with fatal malignant lymphoma.
However, she only found out about the original misdiagnosis last year when she received a letter stating her case was being reviewed.
It was one of 26 cases at the University Hospitals Bristol NHS Foundation Trust to be investigated following a string of alleged misdiagnosis incidents.
Miss Calland said yesterday: ‘I am furious about this. If I had the radiotherapy a year before, I might not have cancer now. But it was missed in the early stages. I might not be living with cancer today if this avoidable error had not occurred.’
Miss Calland, of Hotwells, Bristol, had an initial mammogram at the University Hospitals central health clinic in December 2005 and was called back for a biopsy.
The results were reported as benign in 2006 after doctors told her they had found a harmless enlarged lymph node in her breast. But when she questioned the diagnosis, she claims the female surgeon called her ‘hysterical’.
The mother of two said: ‘She said it was probably an infection through my nipple. I disputed this and said, “I have a bad feeling about this, can you please remove it”.
‘She laughed at me and said I was “being hysterical about it”.
A mammogram in 2007 showed that the lymph node was still enlarged and this time she insisted on having it removed.
Miss Calland opted to be treated at nearby Frenchay Hospital, run by the North Bristol NHS Trust.
It was there that she was diagnosed with malignant lymphoma.
Her doctor also carried out a series of tests on the sample taken from her breast in 2005 – finding it also had the malignant lymphoma.
But she was not told about the misdiagnosis until last year.
‘They said they thought it was not in my best interests to do so. I find that patronising and insulting.’
After a bout of radiotherapy treatment, Miss Calland was told the lymphoma had spread around her body and was terminal.
She has been told patients with the disease rarely live longer than ten years. But early treatment could have increased chances of survival.
The review of histopathology – the analysis of tissue samples – at the University Hospitals Bristol was launched by the Royal College of Pathologists in 2009 following concerns by doctors at NBT.
It found the diagnosis was correct in just seven of the 26 cases. Now, as health bosses discuss setting up a single histopathology department in Bristol, Miss Calland is calling for doctors to be more open.
Dr Jane Luker, deputy medical director for University Hospitals Bristol NHS Foundation Trust, said: ‘We apologise unreservedly for the cases where patients have come to harm.’
Dr Chris Burton, NBT medical director, said: ‘As soon as the RCP confirmed a diagnostic error, we contacted Ms Calland. We failed to raise with her the initial concerns ... and have apologised.’