Pancreatic cancer 'missed 19 times by NHS'

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Media captionJulia Rogers: "It curtails my life expectancy rather dramatically"

A terminal cancer patient says the NHS failed to diagnose the disease despite 19 doctor and hospital visits.

Julia Rogers, 58, from Newton Abbot, Devon, said she only found out she had inoperable pancreatic cancer after she paid £600 for a private scan.

NHS England has launched an inquiry into how doctors failed to diagnose her condition.

In a statement it apologised and said "any lessons would be put into practice without delay".

Early signs of pancreatic cancer

  • Weight loss
  • Stomach pain
  • Jaundice
  • Lack of appetite
  • Back pain
  • It has a five-year survival rate of 3%, compared with 85% for breast cancer, 97% for testicular cancer and 67% for cervical cancer

In September, Ms Rogers went to her GP with severe back pain, which was spreading to her abdomen.

She had blood tests and was later sent for an ultrasound at Totnes Community Hospital.

She said nothing unusual was seen on the scan, but her pancreas was obscured at the time because of "excessive bowel gas" and the test was not repeated.

Between October and June she continued to experience severe pain and said she visited doctors 17 times.

'Not taken seriously'

She also went to Torbay Hospital's accident and emergency department twice and was sent home with painkillers on one occasion.

Ms Rogers said: "I still knew something was very wrong.

"I could not get any of the doctors to take me seriously. Urgency was totally lacking.

"I've been let down and I'm devastated."

Image caption Ms Rogers said since she was diagnosed it had been "a-day-by-day battle" to find out when she would start chemotherapy

She was referred to an appointment with a gastroenterologist but decided she could not wait several weeks and paid £600 to have a scan at a private hospital in Bristol.

On 11 June, she was told she had "inoperable advanced pancreatic cancer".


"You either throw the towel in and give up or you fight and for me there is only one option," she said.

Ms Rogers said since she was diagnosed it had been "a-day-by-day battle" to find out when she would start chemotherapy.

In a statement from NHS England, on behalf of South Devon Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust, which runs Torbay Hospital, Totnes Community Hospital and South Devon and Torbay Clinical Commissioning Group, said: "We are very sorry to hear about Ms Rogers' diagnosis and the difficulties she seems to have encountered over an extended period.

"This clearly calls for thorough investigation on behalf of all NHS organisations involved.

"We will be seeking an early meeting with Mrs Rogers to understand her concerns more fully."

Dr Graham Lockerbie, the medical director for NHS England in the South West will be leading the investigation.

Mrs Rogers was admitted to hospital over the weekend and expects to undergo treatment this week.

What does the pancreas do?

• The pancreas lies high up behind the stomach and is shaped like a pistol.

• It helps digestion by releasing juices which break down food into small fragments.

• The pancreas also produces insulin and glucagon, two hormones that regulate sugar levels in the blood.

• It is possible to live without a pancreas but you will need to take insulin and pancreatic enzyme supplements.

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