Three recent stories highlight very disturbing cases of missed diagnosis in the case of brain tumors, all of which ended in death. All three examples are tragic.
“Young mother dies of brain tumour just hours after giving birth.” As if this were not tragic enough, the doctors actually diagnosed her condition as an “ear infection.” Rosie Kremer, 24, had complained of headaches, loss of appetite, dizziness, and sickness early on in her pregnancy and the doctors diagnosed labyrithitis. Guess what labyrithitis is: an EAR INFETCION. Even though things got worse and worse throughout the pregnancy (dramatic weight loss, agonizing pain), the doctors thought she was just having a “bad pregnancy.” Rosie spent her last five weeks in bed, unable to sit up or use her hands. Six hours after giving birth via caesarean, Rosie was pronounced brain dead. In a CT scan taken months too late (it was taken post-mortem), a large brain tumor was found on her brain stem.
“Hospital staff treated man with a brain tumour like ‘just another drunk’ in the hours before his death.” Just imagine being treated like a drunk in the hours before your death; certainly not a dignified way to die. “‘They just left Terry in a cubicle to die.” The more stunning fact is that Terry Day had been diagnosed with a brain tumor a year ealier. He died at age 35, 3 weeks short of getting married.
“Girl, 14, diagnosed with dehydration after suffering severe headaches and poor vision died months later from brain tumour.” Olivia Wicks went to the hospital with severe headaches, sickness and poor vision, but a triage nurse downgraded her symptoms, which left her waiting six hours see a doctor. The doctor wrongly decide that she was dehydrated and sent her home. Six weeks later, Olivia was ill again and went to another hospital,where she finally had a CT scan, which revealed an inoperable brain tumor. She only survived 10 months after the correct diagnosis.
So what are we left with after these three tragic cases? Illustrations of the critical need for increased brain tumor awareness and questions, lots of questions.
- Brain tumor symptoms often present in ways that are similar to other maladies. However, with brain tumors at top of mind, even the lay person might suspect something far more serious than that which was diagnosed.
- Raised awareness and education for medical staff seems to be the first step to a solution. We go to doctors to figure out what is wrong with us relying on their expertise. Suppose you took your car in to be serviced because it was pulling to the left, and all the garage did was realign the car without noticing that the left front tire was flat, causing the car to pull left. Wouldn’t you lose all faith in that mechanic and the garage?
- Have any protocols been established in hospitals designed to seriously consider and investigate the possibility of brain tumor? Shouldn’t that be at least the minimum standard? Hospitals typically don’t diagnose heart attacks as indigestion, why not the same with brain tumors? Given how deadly brain tumors are, their relative scarcity is no excuse.
We could probably go on for quite a while making comments and making suggestions, but I do have a rhetorical question to be pondered that may be viewed as controversial or politically driven. The true reason behind this question is curiosity. While I am sure that we can find similar stories of misdiagnosis all across the globe, all three of these occurred in the UK. So my question is this: Could these tragedies have stemmed from the social medical system in the UK?