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You know, I like to think that there are GPs out there who are capable of spotting serious illnesses and indeed doing more than saying “It sounds like a virus, stay at home and drink plenty of fluids”, but when you come across yet another story like this, you have to wonder:
A teenage cheerleader had to have her leg amputated after doctors missed her cancer four times, telling her it was growing pains.

Shannon Corr, 15, repeatedly visited GPs for over two months complaining of agonising pains in her right knee and shin that left her struggling to walk.

But doctors told her she was suffering from growing pains and advised her simply to go home and rest.

After GPs refused to refer Shannon to hospital, her desperate mother rushed her to A&E and pretended she had fallen over so she could be fully examined.

Doctors immediately spotted a problem, but by the time the rare bone cancer osteosarcoma was diagnosed it had spread to the soft tissue of Shannon's leg and medics were forced to amputate. [Daily Mail]
I already had a long list of stories like this, some attributable in print and others anecdotal, but this comes only a week after I met a woman who is undergoing aggressive chemotherapy to combat her breast cancer which remained undiagnosed for the best part of a year because two GPs in the same practice airily dismissed her alarm that the lump under her arm could be breast cancer at the tender age of 37. “What’s probably happened,” said one of them—this is my favourite—“is that you’ve leant your arm over the back a chair for too long, and it’s pushed the tissue up and formed that lump.” She said that after her cancer was diagnosed, these two clowns couldn’t do enough to help her, presumably because they’re more familiar with malpractice procedures than she is. My mother noted the names of the two doctors and will alert the hospital where she works that there are two extremely dangerous GPs operating locally, but this level of lethal complacency seems to be worryingly widespread.


( 8 comments — Leave a comment )
Feb. 24th, 2010 04:37 pm (UTC)
Talking to my Dad about (his experience of) this, he made a point I think is interesting. He said when he was younger and went to the doc's with something wrong and no obvious cause, they'd send you for tests until they found something. Now they send you for a full blood count/cholesterol, add in kidney, liver, and thyroid if you're presenting with something really weird: and if those come back ok you're screwed because they don't do anything else.

My experience bears this out. A year and three months since I was signed off work and became essentially quite disabled, my doctor still won't commit to a diagnosis.
Feb. 24th, 2010 06:04 pm (UTC)
Any chance you can get her to refer you to a grown-up?
Feb. 24th, 2010 06:34 pm (UTC)
I have done exactly this. :)
Feb. 24th, 2010 07:47 pm (UTC)
One of my grandmothers died in her 60s because they sent her home for almost two years telling her that the lumps in her breasts were calcium deposits.
Feb. 25th, 2010 04:38 am (UTC)
Argh! Dear gods that's unforgivable!

The quality of GPs varies here, but our system is quite different to the NHS. It's taken some hunting aroundd, but I've managed to find myself really good GPs in Bris & Hobart that will get to the bottom of thigs. Quite a relief after years of being treated like a hyperchondriac.
Feb. 25th, 2010 08:01 am (UTC)
OTOH you've just used The Daily Mail to confirm a prejudice.

Feb. 25th, 2010 09:55 am (UTC)
Feb. 25th, 2010 02:38 pm (UTC)
I've read those and still don't know whether anyone did anything wrong. Mainly because I don't know very much about medicine, and none of the information in those articles appears to come from anyone who does know much about medicine.
( 8 comments — Leave a comment )

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