Woman’s Incurable Cancer Misdiagnosed as IBS: “I Wish I Pushed Back More”

A 40-year-old woman was diagnosed with incurable cancer two years after consulting her GP due to the symptoms she experienced. 

But, she claims she faced delays wherever she turned, including when she raised the symptoms to her doctor. 

The Cardiff citizen, Claire O’Shea, first noticed a lump in her abdomen in August 2021 and she was given meds for irritable bowel syndrome. 

She realized it may be something more severe after a masseuse asked her if she was pregnant. 

“I Wish I Pushed More”, Said O’Shea 

O’Shea shared her story as part of the Senedd inquiry about women’s experience with gynecological cancer.

Unfortunately, this is the fourth most common reason for death from cancer in women in Wales. In January this year, only one-third of patients who were suspected of gynecological cancer in Wales began their treatment timely. 

O’Shea claims there was a chance for the GP to have noticed the problem earlier. 

She said that reading about her symptoms like bloating, discomfort, constipation, etc., helped her learn that they signal various gynecological cancers and they’re a red flag for everyone. 

O’Shea had visited her GP several times before they referred her to the University Hospital of Wales in Cardiff to undergo an ultrasound in February 2022.

She says that the specialists there downgraded the suspicion of cancer to a fibroid. They removed it surgically in September. But, the biopsy results showed that it was sarcoma, a rare type of tumor in the uterus. 

This was devastating news for O’Shea and her family since this is a very aggressive tumor. The prognosis is okay if the cancer is caught early on; however, the prognosis becomes awful if the disease isn’t caught early. 

Unfortunately, around 14 percent of individuals survive up to four years and O’Shea said she has been fighting it some two years. 

O’Shea had to undergo a total hysterectomy within three weeks of being diagnosed. 

Small Mistakes at Every Turn, Claims O’Shea 

During the first scan, the doctors believed she had liver cysts and she was assured that this is common.

However, the second scan showed that the cancer had spread to the lungs, bones, and liver. 

The cancer was growing and the surgery was still only scheduled. 

O’Shea says there have been small mistakes wherever she turned. This is a systemic issue with attitudes, particularly in primary care for women.

She felt neurotic because they behaved like she didn’t have anything else to worry about other than an upset stomach. But, it turned out to be much worse than that. 

O’Shea is now under a sarcoma consultant at Velindre Cancer Centre in Cardiff, a specialist facility where she will undergo chemotherapy. 

She’s aware of the complexities of a massive system and not being able to address everyone with urgency; however, she wishes they listened to her earlier because she believes that if this was the case, only a fibroid removal may have been enough.