Sunderland cancer victim's family left with 'unanswered questions'

Jeanette Scully's husband David, middle, with other family members.
Jeanette Scully's husband David, middle, with other family members.
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The family of a Sunderland woman who died from a cancer which went undiagnosed despite 58 visits to the doctors in just five months have been left with unanswered questions.

Jeanette Scully, 47, from Sunderland, developed a rare tumour in her uterus, and by the time it was found, it had spread too far to operate.

Jeanette Scully.

Jeanette Scully.

After the diagnosis, she married her partner of 22 years while in hospital, and died in August.

She had been examined for abdominal pain since 2012, and suffered from severe pain in her back and leg.

She also experienced blood in her stool and lost between two and two-and-a-half stones from July 2014 to January 2015.

Mrs Scully had been referred to a gynaecologist and a colo-rectal specialist, an inquest at Sunderland Civic Centre has heard.

David Scully after the inquest into his wife's death.

David Scully after the inquest into his wife's death.

Her widower David told the hearing: "The pain she was going through was excruciating. She was literally screaming like a fan at a football match."

Mr Scully said she lost the weight because she only ate "tiny bits", because going to the toilet was so painful.

His wife went through a uterine ablation after being diagnosed with fibroids. She was left with a dull ache in the stomach, her husband said, and although GPs told her it would ease, "it turned out it never did".

A "mass" was detected but this was put down to being an infected fibroid and was treated with antibiotics.

Mr Scully said the couple sometimes discussed whether she might have cancer.

"We just thought, she's had that many people looking at her, it cannot be cancer," he said.

A sarcoma of the womb was diagnosed last May.

"She had given up hope of anyone helping her, she felt as though nobody was listening," Mr Scully said.

He said she had 58 appointments with the doctors between January and the May when she was diagnosed, and that came after she insisted that the problem was not her fibroids.

"It's unbelievable someone can be going through that amount of pain, and still the only way it got found was because she pleaded," he said.

Dr Martin Weatherhead, in charge of the surgery where she was treated by several GPs, said when Mrs Scully was seen by his doctors, she was under the care of relevant specialists and had been seen by a gynaecologist and seen a colo-rectal surgeon.

Dr Johannes Dalhuijsen, another GP she saw, told the inquest: "She was seen by a variety of clinicians. I couldn't say she was being neglected at all.

"I couldn't say her symptoms were neglected. A lot of examinations were done that were appropriate."

Sunderland Assistant Coroner Andrew Hetherington delivered a narrative verdict, which said: "Jeanette Scully died following an extremely rare form of aggressive cancer in a location in which it could not be seen radiologically and with symptoms which correlated with fibrosis, for which she was being treated.

"It is unlikely that an earlier diagnosis could have been made and if treatment was instigated earlier it is unlikely the outcome would have been any different."

Michelle Armstrong, a specialist medical negligence lawyer at Irwin Mitchell in Newcastle, who represented the family, said after the hearing: “Jeanette’s family have been left absolutely devastated by her death.

"This is a very difficult time for them and while the inquest has gone some way to providing answers to the many questions they had, they still remain concerned about the care she received before she died.

“We are continuing to investigate the treatment received by Jeanette, and will continue to support her family through the legal process. We are determined to help them secure the answers they need about the care she was provided by her local GP and the City Hospitals Sunderland NHS Foundation Trust.”

Jeanette’s husband David, who married her shortly before she died, said: “I really didn’t know what to do when Jeanette was in so much pain.

"The impact of her death has been enormous and we have struggled to come to terms with what happened to Jeanette in the years before her death and her feeling that her health problems were not being taken seriously.

“We’re glad that the coroner has now investigated her death, but we are still left with a number of unanswered question about the treatment Jeanette received.”