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A doctor's failure to diagnose cancer.

  • 14-09-2021 2:09pm
    Registered Users Posts: 4,295 ✭✭✭

    "A terminally ill Mayo mother who came home from Australia to die has said she feels let down by the Irish health system.

    Meabh Feerick from Ballinrobe was diagnosed with advanced and aggressive melanoma, a form of skin cancer, in December 2020, while living and working in Homebush, Sydney. At the time of her diagnosis, 25-year-old Meabh was busy raising her three-year-old son, Noah, and enjoying life in Oz when her world was shattered by a small lump on the back of her scalp.

    Maebh said she saw a doctor about the lump at least five or six times over the previous two years, but was repeatedly assured it was nothing more than a wart or cyst. She pushed for further testing as the lump continued to grow and became painful to touch. She was devastated to discover her suspicions were correct when a biopsy revealed the lump to be stage four melanoma and her condition was incurable."

    The cyber-attack on the HSE meant that doctors here couldn't access the documentation about Meabh's care in Australia - she had saved it on a USB stick. Her oncologist in Galway told her that she has 3 to 5 months to live.

    Meabh said that one nurse in Ireland is doing the work of five nurses in Australia and that she would have had better options if she had stayed in Australia.

    But why would a doctor who is regarded as competent - whether in Ireland or in Australia - assume that a lump is only a wart or a cyst? The fact that this catastrophically false assumption took place in Australia puts a question mark on the quality of healthcare in that country.



  • Registered Users Posts: 12,252 ✭✭✭✭mariaalice

    Was she diagnosed here or in Australia? doctors are not infallible but if she had to see a doctor 5 times before they did anything, did the doctor not even ask did she want the wart or cysts removed?

    It a very sad case.

  • Registered Users Posts: 12,927 ✭✭✭✭jmayo

    Seriously if the general public only realised how poor some of the cancer diagnosis has been in our helth care system they would chance the local vet before the local hospital.

    Yes they are only human and can make a mistake but fook me if you make a mistake 3 or 4 times then there is something seriously wrong.

    And then to top if off the way they often inform patients, especially women btw, of their as good as terminal diagnosis is fooking astounding if not bothering on downright cruelty.

    We were supposed to have start training doctors way back in the late 80s, early 90s in bedside manner and dealing with patients, yet 30 years later you have doctors dropping bombshells on patients in the same manner one would tell them the weather forecast for the week.

  • Registered Users Posts: 10,575 ✭✭✭✭Riesen_Meal

    My pal was misdiagnosed cancer for over 2 year's and was dead within 8 weeks once he got a second opinion, it can happen sadly...

  • Posts: 0 [Deleted User]

    It's a thing with a lot of Irish doctors with young people in there 20's or 30's in Ireland.

    If you go to a doctor when your young and say something is wrong physically they'll try to convince you it's in your head or nearly smirk at you and not give you the same level of care or tests as an older person.

    You nearly have to force it out of them or request what you want.

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  • Registered Users Posts: 4,295 ✭✭✭political analyst

    In the part of the article that I quoted, it says she was diagnosed in Australia.

  • Registered Users Posts: 4,295 ✭✭✭political analyst

    Except the late diagnosis in this case was in Australia.

  • Registered Users Posts: 25,491 ✭✭✭✭Mrs OBumble

    Yes, the late diagnosis was in Australia.

    But the article is about the rubbish quality of care she is receiving here.

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  • Registered Users Posts: 5,200 ✭✭✭Former Former Former

    Huge sympathy for the woman in question but this is a very misleading thread.

  • Registered Users Posts: 40,289 ✭✭✭✭Gatling

    What are we supposed to be discussing op ,

    Yes it's quite a sad story but what is your opinion on something like this .

    Yes we are all aware how bad our health services are but this has nothing to do with this ,

    The hack was beyond anyone's control it was just bad luck she came back when she did

  • Registered Users Posts: 4,295 ✭✭✭political analyst

    The cyber-attack is not the reason for this thread - I mentioned her reference to it in order to provide context. In the OP, I asked why a doctor would simply assume that a lump is just a wart or cyst.

  • Registered Users Posts: 4,295 ✭✭✭political analyst

    But her fate was sealed before she returned to Ireland.

  • Registered Users Posts: 4,295 ✭✭✭political analyst

    I mentioned what she said about Ireland's health service in order to provide context.

  • Registered Users Posts: 13,713 ✭✭✭✭Dav010

    Context in relation to what? The late diagnosis in Australia, the unprovoked hack, the terminal diagnosis?

    Unfortunately, in addition to a cruel diagnosis, she arrived in both the middle of a pandemic and at the time of a criminal hack which affected HSE data systems.

  • Registered Users Posts: 4,291 ✭✭✭jackboy

    For something like that you just go to a GP to get a test organised or to be referred on. A doctor is not qualified to diagnose such things by just having a look. A lot of people misunderstand what a GP is and what they are qualified to do.

  • Registered Users Posts: 19,397 ✭✭✭✭cnocbui

    She should have stayed in Australia. I think this story is possibly missing a significant part. Melanoma usually starts as a discoloured and irregular skin blemish/patch/mole. If it developes past a certain point without being dignosed and metastises, you are finished, it being one of the most aggresive cancers there is. One of the consequences of the latter stages is lumps - tumors - under the skin.

    Australia has a very high incidence of Melanoma, and consequently, doctors there are generally acutely aware of the problem and are on the lookout and are hyper-aware, so I wonder if the GP she saw received their medical training overseas. Also, and alternatively, the 'lump' might not have been the original skin tumor, which was elsewhere and was missed, so it didn't look like a melanoma to the DR. Another possibility if it was the original tumor is that it was growing down vertically and was missed because it didn't look the part.

    My brother was an Australian living in London. He went to a UK GP about a new and growing skin blemish on his abdomen. He was told it was nothing. It continued and my brother didn't like the look of it and so he went back and asked the GP to cut it out, which he did. The wound wasn't healing properly so the GP injected it with Cortisone. Still not healing properly and likely not looking right, the GP excised a bit more, sent it for analysis and injected more cortisone.

    The analysis came back that it was Melanoma. Possibly due to GP gross failures and possibly it was too late by the first GP visit, but my brother was dead within two years. Apparently the original tumor had spread down vertically and so was less obvious than if it had been more horizontal.

    I still think to this day that if he had gone to an Australian GP, it might have been more likely to have been recognised and caught in time.

  • Registered Users Posts: 4,295 ✭✭✭political analyst

    What I meant is that I mentioned it because she mentioned it.

  • Registered Users Posts: 2,483 ✭✭✭Ardillaun

    Melanomas can be very difficult to suspect if they are not pigmented, i.e. amelanotic melanoma. Various benign cysts are common on the scalp, far commoner than melanoma. A friend of mine in Canada had a scalp melanoma misdiagnosed as benign after it had been removed and sent for pathological exam. All sorts of errors can be made and they are made in every country.

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  • Registered Users Posts: 1,813 ✭✭✭Wesser

    Maybe he diagnosed the lump as a cyst because it looked like a cyst.....

    OP....your question is over simplistic

    Melanoma is notoriously difficult to diagnose and can masquarade as something benign looking.

    Main error is if it was seen by the same doctor several times .... normally this would prompt a referral.

    Just because one doctor made a mistake does not mean the whole Australian healthcare system is incompetent

  • Registered Users Posts: 12,927 ✭✭✭✭jmayo

    Yes it was in this case.

    I am just stating a fact that there have been terrible amount of misdiagnosis of cancer in this country and the attitude of health professionals is often frankly disgusting.

    Or perhaps the whole cervical smear testing debacle passed you totally by🙄

    Must be a quiet day for Leo & Co you have time to defend the Irish healthcare system yet again.

    Skin cancer is treated more seriously in Ireland than Australia ???

    Australia has the highest rate of skin cancer in the world and they have made huge strides to try and protect younger generations.

    Pass any school in Australia and you will quite quickly see.

    What have we done ?

    Oh yeah we brought in some rules about sunbeds in 2014.

    BTW the Australians were carrying out research on effects of sunbeds decades earlier.

  • Registered Users Posts: 4,177 ✭✭✭Fandymo

    How is anyone on Boards supposed to be able to answer that?? Maybe the Aussie Dr training isn't up to scratch. Or maybe it looked like a wart or a cyst?

  • Registered Users Posts: 12,927 ✭✭✭✭jmayo

    I just used the cervical check as an example of cancer mis-diagnosis.

    Ok you call it screening, or whatever you want, but the end results were that some women could have been treated much earlier so don't try the cr** about how it had no effect on their outcomes.

    And false negatives are one thing, multiple false negatives for the one patient are another thing.

    The way some absolutely terrible prognosis was communicated to some patients was bordering on sadistic.

    A fooking vet would have been better at it than some of these so called very well educated medical professionals.

    And it is not just cervical that has cock ups with terrible mis diagnosis.

  • Registered Users Posts: 4,624 ✭✭✭skimpydoo

    I had a friend who was misdiagnosed twice in Ireland. He died 6 months after he was correctly diagnosed.

  • Registered Users Posts: 1,546 ✭✭✭rock22

    There isn't a test in the world that doesn't have false negatives.

    SHould our health services no longer use tests until scientists can create the 'perfect test' i.e. one with no false negatives or false positives?

  • Posts: 0 [Deleted User]

    If this is the case why were some women awarded millions of euros in compensation.

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  • Registered Users Posts: 2,483 ✭✭✭Ardillaun

    No screening program is perfect. That’s how the the world is. Error can be reduced but it cannot be eliminated.