Spennymoor mum died of breast cancer after hospital failed to spot tumour

Lesley Greenwood was 54 when she died of breast cancer, 19 months after being diagnosed. Credit: Family

A widower is raising awareness about the symptoms of breast cancer after there were delays in diagnosing his wife with the killer disease.

Lesley Greenwood was told a 2.2cm cancerous legion in her breast was normal.

However, the grandmother, from Spennymoor in County Durham, was later diagnosed with breast cancer and died 19 months later.

She had complained about pain in her left breast for about five months and sought medical advice before attending a mammogram appointment.

The scan revealed the mass but it was not picked up and Mrs Greenwood was told her test was normal.

Over the next few months, she attended five further appointments and after six months she was referred to a breast clinic. She was diagnosed following further tests.

Mrs Greenwood, who worked as a school cleaner, started treatment but the cancer spread to her spine and liver and she died 19 months later, at the age of 54.

North Tees and Hartlepool NHS Foundation Trust, which was responsible for analysing Mrs Greenwood’s initial mammogram, admitted it failed to correctly interpret it and recall her for treatment.

A spokesperson for the trust apologised to her family and said lessons had been learned from the case.

Eric Greenwood, Mrs Greenwood’s husband, who is a refuge driver, said: “Lesley was an absolutely wonderful wife, mum and grandmother. She was loving, kind and generous. She lived for her family and loved looking after the grandkids. She was always keen to spoil us all and nothing was ever too much trouble for her.

Lesley Greenwood was a beloved mother and grandmother. Credit: Family

“Lesley had a friend who had suffered from breast cancer and she was anxious about possibly developing it. When she started feeling pain she wanted to get checked out straight away. While the mammogram came back as normal, Lesley was still concerned especially as her pain was getting worse.

“Despite this nothing prepared us for the news she had cancer. Coming to terms with her diagnosis and having so many questions was incredibly difficult.

“Lesley was determined to fight her cancer head-on. However, she suffered terribly at times during her chemotherapy. We all hoped her treatment would make her better but she continued to suffer. To be told that her cancer had spread and was incurable felt such a cruel blow.

“We tried to cherish what time we had as a family but seeing Lesley go from being the rock of our family to how she was in those last few days is something I’m not sure I’ll ever get over.

“Even after five years, as a family, the pain we continue to feel over Lesley’s death is raw now as it was then. There’s not a day goes by where we don’t think of her and her loving smile. We’d do anything to have her back in our lives but know that’s not possible.

“We’ll always be upset by what happened to Lesley but as a family we were determined to at least honour her memory by establishing the answers regarding what happened to her.

“All we can hope for now is that by speaking out we can help raise awareness of the signs of breast cancer and the need for everyone to receive the best care possible. We wouldn’t wish what we’ve been through on anyone.”

What are the symptoms of breast cancer?

The first symptom of breast cancer that most women notice is a lump or an area of thickened tissue in their breast, the NHS says.

Most breast lumps are not cancerous, but it is always best to have them checked by a doctor.

People are advised to see a GP if they notice any of the following:

  • a new lump or area of thickened tissue in either breast that was not there before

  • a change in the size or shape of one or both breasts

  • a discharge of fluid from either nipple

  • a lump or swelling in either armpit

  • a change in the look or feel of your skin, such as puckering or dimpling, a rash or redness

  • a rash (like eczema), crusting, scaly or itchy skin or redness on or around the nipple

  • a change in the appearance of the nipple, such as becoming sunken into your breast

Breast pain is not usually a symptom of breast cancer.

Women are urged to become familiar with their breasts so they notice changes.

How to check your breasts

The NHS issued the following guidance for helping people to check their breasts.

  • Look at your breasts and feel each breast and armpit, and up to your collarbone. It may be easiest to do this in the shower or bath, by running a soapy hand over each breast and up under each armpit.

  • You can also look at your breasts in the mirror. Look with your arms by your side and also with them raised.

The Greenwood family received an undisclosed settlement from the trust.

Megan Walker, medical negligence lawyer at Irwin Mitchell representing Mr Greenwood and the couple’s daughters Steph Bate and Caroline Comby, aged 30 and 31, said: “The last few years and trying to come to terms with Lesley’s diagnosis and death has been incredibly hard for all her family.

“Understandably Eric, Steph and Caroline, had a number of concerns about the care Lesley received. Sadly, our investigation has validated those concerns with the trust admitting worrying failings in Lesley’s care.

Eric Greenwood wants to raise awareness about the symptoms of breast cancer after his wife Lesley's death. Credit: Family

“While nothing can make up for the hurt and pain Lesley’s family continue to suffer, we’re pleased that we’ve at least been able to provide them with the answers they deserve.

“Early detection and treatment are key to beating cancer so it’s vital that the Trust learn lessons from what happened to Lesley to improve patient care for others."

A spokesperson at North Tees and Hartlepool NHS Foundation Trust said: “The trust would like to express it is deeply sorry to Mrs Greenwood’s family that there was a delay in the diagnosis of her illness.

“We would like to assure the family that lessons have been learned from this very sad case – lessons which will help reduce the chances of anything like this happening in the future.

“The trust would also like to join the family in helping raise awareness about the importance of women regularly checking their breasts and attending appointments for a mammogram when invited to do so.”

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