A report commissioned for the Brain Tumour Charity has found that women and those in families with household incomes of less than £20,000 are more likely to experience a delay in diagnosis of brain tumours than anyone else.
Women and those in the low income groups are thought to be twice as likely than men to receive a diagnosis after a wait of more than 1 year from first consulting their doctor. Despite 31% of patients, questioned as part of the report, attending 5 times or more with concerns and symptoms suggestive of a brain tumour, doctors are reported to have put patient’s concerns down to depression, attention seeking and even substance abuse, before eventually referring for scans or other investigations. Only 53% of those asked were satisfied with the way that their GP dealt with their concerns.
The report is yet further evidence of a lack of understanding of brain injuries, and their effects, by General Practitioners, who may only come across brain related problems a few times in their career. Carol Rutherford, who contributed to the report, was told by her GP that she was just tired and didn’t need a scan, despite a nurse friend having concerns that her symptoms of memory loss and personality changes were classic symptoms of brain injury. It was only when she collapsed that Ms Rutherford received a scan confirming the presence of a tumour, by which point she was considered unlikely to survive. Fortunately, she has made a full recovery following surgery.
The report suggests that men may be more proactive in returning to see their GP when they are not happy with the given diagnosis. It also suggests that those from low-income households may be more likely to delay in seeing a doctor, and when they do, they fail to identify their symptoms or find it difficult to communicate with their GP.
The report also reveals that patients with low grade tumours are more likely to experience delay in diagnosis than high grade sufferers. All patients should receive treatment as soon as possible but early diagnosis and treatment in low grade tumours greatly increases the probability of the patient making a full or good recovery. As tumours increase in grade over time, the chances of a full recovery reduce; meaning that early intervention is critical.
Whatever the reasons, it seems that early identification of brain tumours are being halted at the first line of defence, the GP surgeries. Patients should not be afraid to seek second opinions and re-visit their GP’s if they do not feel that all symptoms have been considered or that their current treatment regime is not helping their symptoms.
The Brain Tumour Charity has a report on its website, which includes other statistics and examples of good levels of care offered to other patients.
If you or anyone you know believes their condition may have been misdiagnosed or delayed, contact our specialist Clinical Negligence Team on 0800 316 8892.