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Last Updated: Wednesday, 27 October, 2004, 09:47 GMT 10:47 UK
'My doctor just told me I was overweight'
GPs are failing to refer patients with cancer to specialists quickly enough, a report says.

The All-Party Parliamentary Group on Cancer has recommended family doctors go on cancer education course to help them diagnose patients properly.

One woman speaks about how she was constantly misdiagnosed as a teenager.

Heather Robinson
It was eight months before Heather was properly diagnosed

The pain started in Heather Robinson's foot.

Thinking nothing of it, she did not go to the doctor straight away.

But when it did not clear up she went to see her local GP who said it was a sprained ankle.

After eight months of being fobbed off, she was eventually diagnosed with a soft tissue cancer in her back.

Doctors told her she just had two weeks left to live if she did not have treatment and without delay put her through an emergency course of radiotherapy and chemotherapy, which proved successful.

But as the diagnosis was made so late the tumour had damaged her nerves and now, six years on, she has trouble walking and has to use a wheelchair at times.

She can also never have children.

When I stopped eating, he said it would do me good because I would lose weight
Heather Robinson

The 23-year-old believes it could have been different if only the doctor had referred her when she first went to him with the foot problem.

"I was told if they had got to it earlier, it could have been different.

"It was just too late. The GP just fobbed me off. I kept going back to him saying it was getting worse but he just told me I was seeking attention, he even said it was because I was overweight.

"When I stopped eating, he said it would do me good because I would lose weight."

Six months after first going to her GP, she saw a physiotherapist who said the pain was coming from her back.

Eventually she was sent for an MR scan and the cancer was diagnosed. She was 17 years old.

"Even after all that the doctor never said sorry and he couldn't tell me face-to-face about the tumour. He told my mum and dad."

Ms Robinson, from Manchester, believes the problem with GPs is that they look for minor ailments first.

"It does not surprise me that doctors are misdiagnosing patients. In my experience, they just concentrate on minor problems instead of considering more major things like cancer.

"It causes unnecessary delay."

Cancer services 'need shake-up'
27 Oct 04  |  Health
Wrong diagnosis for cancer woman
09 Mar 04  |  Cambridgeshire

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