Failure to detect throat cancer in a middle-aged man who was instead, prescribed indigestion pills suffered worsening symptoms before a correct diagnosis was finally made.
A 57 year old father of two from Kent, who visited a doctor complaining of a difficulty in swallowing was told he simply had indigestion was given pills to treat the condition. Over the following three months, the symptoms failed to clear and instead, grew steadily worse.
Seeming to neglect further tests, the doctor simply increased the dosage of indigestion tablets until the patient, who was feeling “permanently bloated and unable to get his food down” began to suffer pain and bleeding from the bowel.
Finally a referral to a specialist led to the discovery of a cancerous tumour at the join between his throat and stomach. Fortunately, the tumour had not penetrated the stomach lining and was therefore operable. In a six hour procedure, two thirds of the stomach were removed and the remaining third moved up to the chest where it replaced his throat, which also had to be removed.
Following a course of chemotherapy, the patient who was able to return to work in February five months after surgery, said “I knew this was something more serious than indigestion... I was completely shocked when they said I had cancer — I had the perfect life and was healthy.”
Cancer of the throat/oesophagus is the sixth most common cause of cancer death in the UK (2012), accounting for 5 per cent of all deaths from cancer, according to Cancer Research UK.
Despite the high number of cases, research by Public Health England finds mistakes are commonly made by doctors who diagnose for heartburn or indigestion because they fail to recognise the symptoms of one of the most aggressive cancer types.
As a result, it can sometimes be the case that patients are diagnosed at a late stage in the spread of the cancer, which has become irreversible.