Wednesday 23 January 2019

'I went to A&E with meningitis and found out I had cancer'

Lyndsey Connolly: a conscientious trainee doctor decided to carry out a chest X- ray at the A&E
Lyndsey Connolly: a conscientious trainee doctor decided to carry out a chest X- ray at the A&E
Eilish O'Regan

Eilish O'Regan

Lyndsey Connolly was only in her mid-20s when she ended up being diagnosed with cancer in A&E.

"I felt tired but put it down to having finished my Masters," said Ms Connolly, a native of Blessington in Co Wicklow.

She attended the A&E department in Tallaght Hospital in Dublin, where she was told she had flu and viral meningitis.

However, a conscientious trainee doctor decided to also carry out a chest X-ray.

He spotted something in the reading which caused concern.

"He said he was not quite sure why he ordered the X-ray but it ended up saving my life," she said.

The X-ray showed up an abnormality and Ms Connolly was sent for more tests.

"Four weeks later I was told I had Hodgkin lymphoma," she recalled.

The tumour had killed her immune system so her body could not fight the flu infection and it travelled to her brain, resulting in meningitis.

She underwent a course of chemotherapy, successfully fighting the illness.

Some four years later, Ms Connolly is in very good health and is thankful that, if it was not for her trip to A&E and a vigilant doctor, the cancer may not have been picked up in time.

She advises anyone with worrying symptoms to have them checked and not to ignore them, hoping they will go away.

Ms Connolly shares her story as the Irish Independent reports more than 3,000 cancer patients a year are only discovering they have the illness after attending A&E - and for many the disease is already advanced.

One in seven of the 22,000 new invasive cancer cases here annually is being picked up after the patient presents to an often chaotically overcrowded hospital emergency department, a damning report has revealed.

Older people, as well as patients from poorer backgrounds, are most likely to find out they have cancer in this way.

The worrying trend - in which six patients a day are given the devastating news - is laid bare in a report commissioned by the Irish Cancer Society and based on figures from the National Cancer Registry of Ireland.

Nearly eight in 10 of these patients are being told they have late-stage cancer, which reduces their chances of survival.

It warned of "stark inequalities" in cancer diagnosis, highlighting that "if you are older or from a deprived area" you are far more likely to be diagnosed as an emergency.

The odds are also increased that the tumour is advanced.

The report points out that the reasons patients are first told they have the disease in emergency departments are complex. They can include poor awareness of symptoms, failure to consult a GP or lack of timely access to scans.

Irish Independent

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