A mum-of-three has slammed blundering doctors who misdiagnosed her bowel cancer for three years – saying she was going through the menopause.
Jennifer Chambers, 48, was suffering from fatigue and sharp stomach pains when she first went to her GP.
He said she was probably going through the early stages of the menopause and sent her home.
Jennifer saw four more doctors but each time was told her symptoms were probably due to her age until a menopause specialist tested her for cancer.
After almost three years of misdiagnoses she had a colonoscopy last September which revealed she had a tumour the size of a golf ball in her bowel.
Further scans showed the cancer had also spread to both sides of her liver, making it inoperable and incurable.
Jennifer, of Hilton, Derby, is now undergoing aggressive chemotherapy but doctors have given her a seven per cent chance of surviving five years.
Jennifer, who works in IT and is married to Keith, 50, a detective inspector, is now urging other people to seek second opinions if they are experiencing similar symptoms.
She said: “I was fit and healthy until I started having what I would describe as fatigue and an anxious type of pain in my tummy.
“I went to the doctors where they did blood tests and didn’t find anything of concern at that point.
“The pain carried on so I went back a few times over several months to have more blood tests but they didn’t find anything.
“At this stage they didn’t take a stool sample which was what eventually found the cancer.
“They did mention menopause a couple of times but I wasn’t having the classic symptoms like hot flushes.
“Having not gone through menopause before I didn’t know what to expect and thought the fatigue might have been associated with that.
“My periods were a bit hit and miss but now I think that may have been to do with the cancer.
‘I trusted the doctors’
“I thought at my age it could well be the menopause starting so I trusted what the doctors were telling me.
“I also thought it might be nothing and just carried on with life.
“But I still had this niggling feeling something was right and ended up going back to the doctors four times.
“In February 2020 I started to feel quite poorly as the fatigue was getting worse so I went back to the doctor for blood tests.
“They came back OK but they did show something up with my immune system that didn’t concern them.
“Then we went into lockdown and I was really busy with my job and home schooling my youngest.
“But the symptoms started getting progressively worse and the fatigue was really, really bad.
“When I was sitting on the sofa and my whole body hurt I knew something wasn’t right and it couldn’t just be the menopause.
“I had always been very fit and healthy, watched what I ate and exercised, so this was very unusual for me.
“Then the stomach pains got worse and I was doubled over in pain and my bowel habits suddenly changed significantly.
“I told the doctor something definitely wasn’t right and they referred me to a menopause doctor the next day in September 2020.
“We spoke over the phone and she said they were not menopause symptoms and asked to see me urgently.
“She gave me a thorough examination and did blood tests which were OK again apart from this immune thing.
“That time she did a stool sample which detected a certain type of protein that can be a symptom of cancer.
“Then a colonoscopy showed a 4cm tumour which was so large it was almost blocking my bowel.
“It is really dangerous.”
She also underwent an MRI scan which revealed the stage-four advanced cancer had spread to her lymph nodes and liver.
Jennifer added: “They couldn’t take the tumour away while leaving the remaining part of the liver.
“I got a treatment plan and started extensive chemotherapy and immunotherapy to try to shrink the tumour to allow surgery.
“It was absolutely devastating to find out I had advanced stage-four cancer which was both inoperable and incurable and the effects of the chemotherapy are horrendous.”
She is now hoping to use her experience to raise awareness about catching cancer early while she aims to raise thousands for the MacMillan charity.
Jennifer added: “The biggest thing I want to get across is that bowel cancer is not just a disease for old men.
“One in 15 men and one in 18 women will get it but if it is caught early it is treatable.
“Unfortunately a lot of people don’t recognise the symptoms or get misdiagnoses like I did.
“It was a big shock all round for me and the doctors because I’ve always been so fit and healthy, but now through MacMillian I have heard of people in their 20s, 30s and 40s with bowel cancer.
“You mustn’t ignore the signs and should keep going back to the doctor and ask for a third or fourth opinion if you’re not happy with the diagnosis.
“It has been absolutely devastating for my children and husband, and extremely hard and upsetting for my mum and siblings who I haven’t been able to see.”
Jennifer is now considering taking legal action against the hospital in Derbyshire where she was treated.
To make a donation or to learn more about cancer support, visit Macmillan Cancer Support at www.macmillan.org.uk
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