Amelia Ellerby: teen dies within weeks of cancer diagnosis after waiting over a year to see GP, family claim

Amelia Ellerby pleaded with doctors to take her concerns seriously after discovering a lump on her back

A teenager who waited more than a year to see her GP discovered she was riddled with cancer, and died just weeks after her diagnosis, her family claim.

Amelia Ellerby, 19, had pleaded with doctors to take her concerns seriously after she noticed a lump the size of a 50p on her lower back in February last year.

Amelia Ellerby pleaded with doctors to take her concerns seriously (Photo: Claire Hanshaw / SWNS)Amelia Ellerby pleaded with doctors to take her concerns seriously (Photo: Claire Hanshaw / SWNS)
Amelia Ellerby pleaded with doctors to take her concerns seriously (Photo: Claire Hanshaw / SWNS)

Her aunt Claire Hanshaw, 37, claims that doctors just have her antibiotics despite the fact Amellia had phoned her local GP practice about the lump every six weeks.

She said the 19-year-old had grown so worried that she called an ambulance for help, only to be told she would “be wasting her time” if she went to hospital.

Amelia was eventually admitted to A&E and scans revealed she had stage four cancer which had spread “all over the top half of her body”.

Tragically, she passed away on 12 June this year, mere weeks after doctors gave her the devastating news that her diagnosis was terminal.

Ms Hanshaw, who had looked after Amelia since she was 15, said doctors had “failed” her niece by not taking her concerns seriously.

She said: “I feel like the doctors failed Amelia by not taking it seriously. I think there should be a lesson learnt so that other people don’t go through the same thing.

“It was devastating because even though she was my niece she was like a daughter as she was living with me. We were very close.

“It was like losing a child. And it probably shouldn’t have happened.”

She added: “I don’t think they took it seriously at all. I do think if it was picked up sooner, it would have been different.”

What happened?

Ms Hanshaw, a team leader at Morrisons, from York, said her niece first noticed the lump on her back when she started exercising around February last year.

She explained: “She was just doing some sit-ups one day, and just had her hand on the bottom of her back and noticed it.

“You couldn’t see the lump, you could just feel it on the inside.”

She claims that Amelia tried to get an appointment with her GP surgery, the Priory Medical Centre in York, but was told she had been put on the waiting list for a scan.

“They rang her, and they asked her on the phone what size the lump was,” Ms Hanshaw said. “Then they told her she would be referred for a scan, but it could take up to six months because there’s a bit of a wait due to Covid.

“After that, about six weeks later, she got in touch with them again, and they just prescribed her some antibiotics, again without even seeing her.

“This carried on for a year – of getting in touch with them every six weeks, and with them basically telling her she’d be referred for a scan and had to wait for that appointment.

“Eventually, at one point, she actually rang 111, and they sent an ambulance out to her – paramedics came.

“But even they told her that if she went to the hospital, she’d be wasting her time, and she’d get sent back home, so she didn’t end up going."

Amelia had to wait more than a year to see a GP in person (Photo: Claire Hanshaw / SWNS)Amelia had to wait more than a year to see a GP in person (Photo: Claire Hanshaw / SWNS)
Amelia had to wait more than a year to see a GP in person (Photo: Claire Hanshaw / SWNS)

Amelia finally managed to see a GP in person in March this year and the doctor discovered a lump measuring 10cm (four inches) by 3cm (one inch) on her lower back.

The pain started to get worse after seeing the doctor, but Amelia thought it was “from being prodded and poked”.

Her aunt said: “A couple of weeks after that, it just went really big, and it was about the size of a hand sticking out of her back. It went from a smallish lump to being massive overnight.

“The pain got worse, so we had to go to A&E for the CT scan, and then she got referred to Leeds hospital, and that’s where we got the news confirmed.”

‘No one deserves to lose their life at 19’

In May this year, doctors told Amelia she had stage 4 terminal cancer, with a diagnosis of metastatic soft tissue sarcoma.

The scans had initially picked up a mass on her lungs, with later tests revealing the cancer had also spread to her stomach lining, liver and lymph nodes.

Ms Hanshaw explained: “It was around May 18 when we got told she had a couple of months to live.

“And then at the end of May she had another scan, and they said due to how fast everything was going, we were looking at weeks rather than months now.”

She added: "Amelia was upset and angry. Obviously, we started thinking the news is going to be bad, but we didn’t really expect her to be as bad as she was.

“It was only when she went to Leeds that they said it’s not just in her lungs and back – it’s all over the top half of her body, basically.

“No one deserves to lose their life at that age. They haven’t lived their life, really.”

Amelia’s GP surgery and the NHS Vale of York CCG, which looks after primary care in York, said they could not comment on individual cases, but a spokesperson for York and Scarborough Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust said: “Our sympathies are with Amelia’s family at this terribly sad time.

"The way appointments are allocated and prioritised for diagnostic procedures such as scans is dependent on the nature of the referral that we receive, either from a GP or a clinician within the hospital.

"If a referral is made to investigate a potential cancer, then this is fast-tracked and would be done quickly, usually within two weeks. We continued to receive fast-track referrals and maintain this service throughout the pandemic.

"Early detection and diagnosis of cancer is incredibly important and we would encourage anyone who has any concerns to contact their GP as soon as possible.

“We would also encourage Amelia’s family to contact us if they have any questions about the care she received.”

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