Taunton woman left with incurable cancer after being wrongly diagnosed for months

Lorraine had been struggling with symptoms since January 2019 but did not receive her diagnosis for 9 months Credit: ITV News West Country

A Taunton woman was given a wrong diagnosis for months before doctors realised she had ovarian cancer.

Lorraine McKitterick was told her symptoms were related to gallstones but when she was finally diagnosed with stage three cancer she was rushed to have a life-saving operation.

She said: "For about five or six months I had been feeling bloated when I had a small meal and my weight was just going up and up and up.

"I was having reflux and the thought of food was making me feel sick. I was having to go to the bathroom a lot in the middle of the night."

Lorraine had been struggling with symptoms since January 2019 but did not receive her diagnosis until 9 months later in September.

Lorraine says she had never even heard of ovarian cancer before her diagnosis

She said: "It didn't really sink it. The doctor said 'you have to come in next week for an operation and you're really lucky we found it in time.'

"They told my husband that if they hadn't found it when they did I wouldn't be here at Christmas time.

"I'm still flabbergasted that I've got it because I'd never ever heard of ovarian cancer.

"I'd been to the doctor several times and I was being treated for gallstones. I didn't think it was going to be anything sinister at all and to be honest with you I was in denial for the first couple of years."

Lorraine says that she is not clear of the cancer, but it is stable.

She added: "I've had my third anniversary and it's scary that it is not curable but they can treat it."

But she is not alone in this, over a quarter of women make three or more visits to their GP before being referred for specialised tests and nearly a third wait over three months from their first doctor's appointment for the correct diagnosis.

Symptoms of ovarian cancer Credit: NHS

Charity Target Ovarian Cancer also found that a lack of knowledge about symptoms is impacting the diagnosis rates.

It is calling for more training and support for GPs and urgent investment in medical specialists.

Rachel Downing from the charity describes the situation as ‘an awareness crisis in ovarian cancer'.

Rachel told ITV News: "Currently just a third of women are diagnosed at an early stage when ovarian cancer is easy to treat.

So quite simply the earlier it is caught and the faster it's called the much easier is to treat and better outcomes will be."

Symptoms aren’t always obvious with this type of cancer. They include:

  • Frequently having a swollen tummy or feeling bloated

  • Pain in the tummy or between the hips

  • No appetite or feeling full quickly after eating

  • An urgent need to go to the toilet or needing to go more often

  • Back pain

  • Feeling tired

  • Losing weight without trying

GPs, women with a diagnosis of ovarian cancer and women from the general public were questioned as part of the survey.

The findings suggest a lack of progress in diagnosis, awareness, treatment and support.

The Department of Health and Social Care said they are improving care for cancer patients across England, including by opening more than 80 community diagnostics centres which deliver vital cancer checks.

It is hoped that better knowledge of the disease will reduce diagnosis times

Dr Pawan Randev, the GP Cancer Lead said improving education around the subject is really important.

Dr Randev said: "For GPs and also practice nurses, physician associates, all the people who might see in general practice, we need to improve the education and the index of suspicion so we're more activated to pick up on symptoms and to follow them up more at an earlier stage."

NHS England says that £2.3 billion is being invested into expanding diagnostic capacity for cancer, as well as funding for a new ovarian cancer clinical audit, in the hopes of improving outcomes for patients across England.