Saturday 20 January 2018

Mum visited A&E eight times with chronic back pain before being given 'six weeks to live'

Sinead Breen was diagnosed with cancer in November 2014

Sinead Breen and her son Sean (10)
Sinead Breen and her son Sean (10)
Amy Molloy

Amy Molloy

A mother-of-one has claimed that she visited an A&E department up to eight times before she was eventually diagnosed with stage 4 cancer.

Sinead Breen (33), from New Ross in Co Wexford, had been suffering with chronic back pain in 2014.

After numerous visits to the A&E department of University Hospital Waterford, she says she was given sedatives and painkillers to treat the pain but the cause of it was never diagnosed.

One day, she noticed a change in her right breast and was sent to A&E again.

An ultrasound was carried out in the hospital and she was told to contact her GP to request a mammogram - an x-ray used to screen for breast cancer.

Ms Breen claims she asked why it could not be done there and then and says she was told it had to be authorised by her GP.

"I knew there was something wrong there and then," she told

"An oncologist in Waterford brought me and my family into a room and told me I had six weeks to live. That result was given to me from an x-ray I had gotten in October, and I didn't get the news until November 14."

Sinead says she only received a letter from her GP in January 2015 consenting to the mammogram - three months after discovering the lump on her breast.

The oncologist confirmed the reason she had been suffering from severe back pain is because the cancer had spread from her breast to her bones.

Since then, Sinead has been unable to return to work as a care assistant and her husband now has to work part-time in order to take care of her.

After originally being told she had six weeks to live, she has bravely battled cancer for the past two years.

"They have given me drugs to try and keep it at bay. It’s just trial and error. I’m living from scan to scan at this point and I don’t know when I’m going to go.

"Since I was diagnosed, the care I have received has been fantastic, but it definitely should have been diagnosed sooner. I attended A&E between 6-8 times. A person with cancer cannot be sick after 5pm or on Saturday or Sunday, the care just isn’t there to look after people.

"I’ve just finished chemotherapy. Some days I can’t get out of bed at all. I have very little quality of life. I have palliative care there for me , but the last time I rang them at Christmas they just told me to go to A&E."

Sinead is only in her early thirties and has one ten-year-old son, Sean, who she says has been so supportive since she was diagnosed.

"My family have been my rock, but it's been difficult for them.

"Nobody ever wants to go into a room and be told that you are going to be dead in six weeks and then have another consultant telling you they can treat the cancer, but they can't cure it."

She decided to speak out about her experience after reading about Caroline Sherwin's A&E ordeal - a young mum who staged a 13-hour sit-in in the emergency department until she saw a specialist.

Ms Sherwin was also recently diagnosed with cancer.

In relation to Sinead's case, a spokesperson for University Hospital Waterford responded: "UHW don’t comment on individual cases but if the patient concerned contacts the hospital her concerns will be addressed".

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