Woman Told Cancerous Lump Was Cyst That Didn’t Require Further Treatment Asks Medical Negligence Lawyers To Secure Answers
A mum diagnosed with breast cancer is calling for lessons to be learned after a Hospital Trust admitted a two-year diagnosis delay.
Denise Johnson was referred by a GP to Stafford’s County Hospital under the two-week urgent cancer referral scheme amid concerns that a lump in her right breast may be cancerous. No biopsy was taken. A mammogram and ultrasound were classed as ‘indeterminate’.
Indeterminate hospital tests results downgraded
However, following a review by a surgeon, the scan results were downgraded. The mum-of-three and step-mum-of-one was told the lump, measuring around 1.5 centimetres, was a cyst and that surgery wasn’t required.
Denise, of Blythe Bridge, Stoke-on Trent, continued to be concerned about the lump. She raised concerns with doctors four times.
Staffordshire mum Denise diagnosed with breast cancer two years after initial referral
More than two years after her initial referral, a GP again referred the 55-year-old to the breast clinic at County Hospital. Following tests, she was diagnosed with breast cancer – the lump measuring about 3.8 centimetres - which had spread to her lymph nodes.
The healthcare assistant underwent surgery to remove cancerous tissue and lymph nodes as well as radiotherapy.
Denise, who developed lymphedema – a chronic condition that causes swelling in the body’s tissue – as a result of her treatment, instructed expert medical negligence lawyers to investigate her care and establish answers.
Hospital Trust apologises for cancer care failings
She is now joining with her legal team in using Breast Cancer Awareness Month to raise awareness of the signs of the disease and the need for lessons to be learned.
It comes after University Hospitals of North Midlands NHS Trust, which runs County Hospital, admitted a breach of duty.
It admitted a two-year delay in diagnosing Denise’s breast cancer. The delay led to Denise’s chances of surviving the cancer being reduced and her having to have lymph nodes removed, which led to her developing lymphedema, the Trust said.
Through NHS Resolution, the Trust apologised for its care failings.
Expert Opinion“Denise and her family have faced an incredibly tough few years coming to terms with her diagnosis and whether she would survive her cancer.
“Understandably they had a number of concerns about the care Denise received and whether more could have been done to diagnose the disease earlier.
“Sadly, our investigation validated those concerns with the Trust admitting worrying failings in Denise’s care.
“While nothing can make up for the hurt and pain Denise has been through and continues to live with, we’re pleased that we’ve at been able to provide her with the answers she deserves.
“Early detection and treatment are key to beating cancer. Therefore, it’s vital that the Trust learn lessons from what happened to improve patient safety for others.
“We join Denise in raising awareness of the signs of breast cancer. Despite what happened to her and current concerns around cancer care and waiting times, it’s important people continue to participate in screening programmes or seek medical advice as soon as possible if they’re concerned they may have cancer.” Catherine Buchanan
Medical negligence: Denise Johnson's story
After she found a lump, Denise was referred by her GP in January 2019. Following a mammogram and ultrasound, Denise was told she had a cyst. At a hospital appointment a doctor told Denise she didn’t require surgery and to visit a GP if the cyst became infected.
Denise visited a GP in October 2019 concerned about the lump. The GP relied on the lump being characterised as a cyst. She was given antibiotics for an infected cyst.
Denise also sought medical advice in February and March 2021. On both occasions, she was prescribed antibiotics.
Following a further appointment in May 2021, a GP referred her to a breast clinic. Following tests, she was diagnosed with breast cancer.
Following Denise’s diagnosis, a root cause analysis report by University Hospitals of North Midlands NHS Trust, found that an independent oncology expert concluded that the “missed opportunity” to diagnose and treat Denise’s breast cancer in 2019 had reduced her chance of survival from 98 per cent to 57 per cent.
Following treatment Denise now has to have annual mammograms to check that her cancer hasn’t returned.
Denise recalls cancer concerns
She said: “Although I attended routine mammograms, I also regularly checked my breasts as you can never be too careful.
“When I was told by the hospital that I had a cyst and didn’t require further treatment, I felt reassured and relieved. Deep down I was still worried but had no reason not to believe what I’d been told.
“However, as time went on, I started to get more worried especially as the appearance of the lump was changing and it started getting bigger.
“By the time of my second referral to the breast clinic I was really concerned but nothing prepared me for the news I had cancer. It was absolutely devastating, not only for me but I also worried for my family.
“I struggled to come to terms with my diagnosis but also whether more could have been done to diagnose and treat it sooner.
“One of the hardest things to accept was that my chance of survival had dropped quite dramatically because of the diagnosis delay.
Denise backs Breast Cancer Awareness Month and calls for lessons to be learned from her care
“The treatment was difficult and the side effects still live me now. Before my cancer I used to be a lot more relaxed and outgoing but now I’m a lot more anxious, especially as to whether it will come back. I still live in pain and my lymphedema means I’m not as active as I was nor as confident in myself.
“I just hope that by speaking out and sharing my experience I can help others. While there were delays in diagnosing my cancer, it’s vital that women not only continue to attend screening appointments but also carry out regular checks.
“If they feel something isn’t quite right they should trust their body and instinct and seek a second opinion if needed.”
Breast Cancer Awareness Month runs throughout October. For more information visit the website of the charity Breast Cancer Now at www.breastcancernow.org
Find out more about our expertise in supporting people and families affected by cancer diagnosis delays at our dedicated cancer claims section. Alternatively, to speak to an expert contact us or call 0370 1500 100.