Woman with cancer symptoms told to take painkiller

The student underwent surgery to have an ovary removed. Picture: Getty
The student underwent surgery to have an ovary removed. Picture: Getty
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AN overseas student with what could have been a cancerous growth in her ovaries was twice told by doctors at a city GP practice to take over-the-counter painkillers when she should have been sent for an urgent scan.

Under guidelines designed to ensure ovarian cancer is picked up as early as possible, women found to have an abnormal mass are supposed to be immediately referred to a specialist for further investigation.

But the student, who complained of excruciating abdominal pain, nausea and constipation in November last year, was initially told to take paracetamol. When her symptoms persisted, she returned five days later and a lump in her womb was discovered, but after giving the patient a pregnancy test, the GP diagnosed constipation and prescribed a laxative with instructions to return a week later.

It was only after the patient’s parents became so concerned about their daughter’s symptoms that her father flew to Scotland and took her home to Germany, where she was correctly diagnosed. Within hours, she underwent surgery to have an ovary removed, spent eight days in hospital and faced an agonising wait to discover whether it had been cancerous.

The patient’s mother brought the case to the Scottish Public Services Ombudsman, who upheld the complaint and ordered the GP practice to carry out an internal investigation and issue an apology.

The mother said she was still in disbelief at the errors made at the practice, which she chose not to name. “It was patently obvious that something was seriously wrong,” she said. “My daughter hadn’t been able to eat for six or seven days. We feel let down to say the very, very least. The doctor noted a uterine mass, so why on earth didn’t they react?”

The Ombudsman, Jim Martin, found advice from the Scottish Intercollegiate Guidance Network had not been followed in the case.

He said: “There were clear clinical signs that should have prompted further specialist investigation. The [medical] adviser said that the recommended diagnostic tool in such cases is ultrasound investigation and that the GPs should have referred her urgently for this. It was not appropriate to take a laxative and re-attend in a week’s time.”

Sick Kids consultant faces being struck off for mistakes

A SENIOR children’s doctor at the Capital’s Sick Kids hospital could be struck off after an expert panel ruled that his fitness to practice is impaired following a series of blunders.

Dr Kiran Patwardhan, a consultant in paediatric intensive care who is now working as a consultant in general paediatrics at the hospital, made mistakes relating to breathing tubes in three patients in 2011.

Professor Denis McDevitt, chair of the Medical Practitioners Tribunal Service panel, said: “The panel has found proved failures relating to poor communication, inadequate leadership and lack of clarity in decision-making.”

In one patient, the panel said errors made by Dr Patwardhan could have had a fatal outcome had an experienced nurse not been present.

A sanction will be decided in the coming days.

Condition often undiagnosed

AN ovarian cyst is a fluid-filled sac that develops on a woman’s ovary.

They usually disappear without the need for treatment and can often go undiagnosed.

However, they can become large or cause symptoms including pain, tiredness or indigestion, and may need to be surgically removed.

Cysts that cause symptoms affect around one in every 25 women at some point in their lives.

Guidance to GPs states that any woman found to have an abdominal mass should be referred to a specialist for further investigation.

The recommended diagnostic tool in such cases is an ultrasound investigation.