West Lothian man with orange-sized tumour faced ‘crushing’ delays to cancer treatment

A terminally ill man was told chemotherapy and surgery were not options due to disruption to care caused by the Covid-19 pandemic.

By Shona Elliott
Friday, 16th April 2021, 7:00 am

Matthew Smith, 30, was diagnosed with a brain tumour in July 2016 after six weeks of headaches and vision problems.

He underwent a three-hour operation five days later to remove the orange-sized tumour which sat between two cysts.

After months of recovery Mr Smith and his wife Hayley Smith, 30, thought the worst was behind them but in April 2020 they were dealt another devastating blow, the tumour was re-growing.

Hayley and Matthew Smith in hospital after Mr Smith's first operation.

Mrs Smith said: “As this news came at the height of the pandemic with hospital admissions increasing daily we were told that chemotherapy or surgery were not options.

“That it was too risky and Matthew would be re-scanned in July and a plan for treatment would be laid out then.

“This news was crushing. When you have been through this before and you know how quickly tumours can grow and the devastating effects they can have, a three month wait is excruciating and anxiety inducing.

“Those three months could be the difference between life and death and I worried every day that I might lose the person I love most.”

Matthew Smith at home in West Lothian after his second brain surgery Oct 2020

Mr Smith is one of many Scottish cancer patients facing disruption to their care because of the ongoing pandemic.

Recent data released by Public Health Scotland estimates a 25 per cent drop in diagnoses from January to August 2020, compared to the same period in 2019, as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic.

In October, Mr Smith, whose diagnosis is now terminal, finally received treatment after suffering a seizure that had devastating effects and caused lasting cognitive problems.

Distraught by the “awful” wait Mrs Smith said that her husband should have received treatment sooner.

Hayley and Matthew Smith at home in West Lothian on New Year's Eve 2020.

She said: “Brain tumours do not wait and neither should surgery. Matthew’s diagnosis is terminal but even for those with non-malignant tumours can still experience awful health issues because of this devastating disease.

“We must not leave them untreated and we cannot expect people living with brain tumours to feel like they are not important.”

The couple have pledged their support to The Brain Tumour Charity’s Scottish Manifesto which is urging local MSP candidates to make helping those affected by a brain tumour in Scotland a government priority.

Development manager at The Brian Tumour Charity Alice Russell said the next Scottih Government needs to take action to deliver a world where brain tumours are defeated.

Matthew Smith in West Lothian.

She said: “Brain tumours still kill more children and adults under 40 than any other cancer in the UK.

“Of those that do survive, quality of life for many is severely impaired and late effects are heart-breaking for far too many families.

“This urgently needs to change. After speaking to our community in Scotland, we've developed this manifesto to lay out the action the next Scottish Government needs to take to help deliver long-awaited progress towards a world where brain tumours are defeated.

“For everyone affected by a brain tumour, we urgently need the next Government to act to improve access to nurse specialists and key workers, drive earlier diagnosis, address any backlog in brain tumour surgeries and scans, and accelerate access to real-world data.”

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