West Lothian father diagnosed with gallstones actually had kidney cancer - ‘At times I felt totally lost’

A father-of-four who was originally diagnosed with gallstones before finding out he had advanced kidney cancer, has praised new treatment now available through NHS Scotland.

Wednesday, 13th October 2021, 4:55 am
David Brownlees from Whitburn was diagnosed with kidney cancer in January 2020.

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Up to 230 Scots suffering with kidney cancer are set to benefit from this new treatment which harrnesses the boy’s immune system to help fight cancer. .

Kidney cancer is the seventh most common cancer in Scotland with more than 1200 new cases diagnosed each year.

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Mr Brownlees with his family at home in Whitburn.

David Brownlees from Whitburn knows only too well the heartbreak of being diagnosed with kidney cancer and said he hopes this new treatment will benefit others like himself.

The 44-year-old was devastated to discover that the fatigue and headaches, thought to be caused by gallstones, was in fact being caused by cancer.

Having endured a long treatment process, the father-of-four is now in remission but remembers clearly the pain of his treatment.

After the shock diagnosis in January 2020, Mr Brownlees was admitted to the Western General Hospital for treatment and had surgery to remove his right lung that was riddled with cancer.

This life saving operation was performed a mere week after surgeries began to be cancelled due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

Speaking to the Evening News, the cancer survivor said: “I was diagnosed with advanced kidney cancer after experiencing pain in my gallbladder. This came as a surprise to me because I hadn’t experienced any symptoms before this, so my diagnosis was completely incidental.

“I was treated at Western General Hospital in Edinburgh. During my treatment journey, I experienced a range of side effects, particularly as some my treatments had high toxicity effects associated with them.

“Due to this, I now must see a rheumatologist as I have developed arthritis, as well as an endocrinologist as my previous treatments have had an effect on my pituitary gland, meaning there has been an effect on my hormones. At times I felt totally lost. Spending time in hospital isn't enjoyable under normal circumstances but during the pandemic, things were very difficult for myself and also for my family.

“Fortunately, I am now in remission. I know my fight with kidney cancer goes on - that’s why, I am passionate about advocating for new treatments being available for kidney cancer patients and will continue to try and raise as much awareness of kidney cancer as possible by sharing my story.”

Important milestone for patients

New treatment, immunotherapy BAVENCIO® (avelumab) was accepted for use within NHS Scotland by the Scottish Medicines Consortium this week.

The treatment will be used in combination with axitnib as the first-line treatment for adults with advanced renal cell carcinoma (RCC).

RCC is the most common type of kidney cancer accounting for eight out of ten UK cases, but outcomes for patients remain poor with a five-year survival rate of approximently 12 per cent at the latest stage.

Professor of Clinical Cancer Research at the University of Glasgow, Robert Jones, said the introduction of the new treatment makes an important milestone for patients with this disease.

He said: “Through the pragmatic and innovative approach taken by the Scottish Government and NHS Scotland during COVID, we are delighted that Scotland has become the first country in the world to have completed a health technology assessment for the use of cabozantinib in combination with nivolumab in this indication”

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