Page last updated at 23:11 GMT, Sunday, 8 June 2008 00:11 UK

'They told me it wasn't cancer'

Teenage cancer patients often have to wait months to be diagnosed, experts have warned.

Richard, now 21, waited 10 months before doctors correctly diagnosed him as suffering from Hodgkin lymphoma, affecting the lymph nodes in his neck.

Swollen lymph gland in the neck
A lump can be an early sign of cancer

He had first noticed a lump in March 2007, after a rugby accident in which he had broken his leg.

Richard assumed it was a muscle tear, but when it had not disappeared by early July, he went to his GP.

His doctor acted swiftly, and referred him for an ultrasound, which showed abnormalities.

But he was sent to see an ear, nose and throat specialist - rather than a cancer specialist - at a general hospital and the tests he was given would not have been able to spot a tumour.

He was eventually given the diagnosis of Hodgkin lymphoma in January this year.

'Frustration'

Richard, from Manchester, said: "When I was referred to the first hospital I was told on two separate occasions that there was definitely no cancer.

I'd be lying if I said I wasn't worried
Richard, cancer patient

"They had identified it as either a lipoma, a non-malignant tumour of the fat cells, or a hernia.

"But I have since seen in letters that they sent to the second hospital that actually they had no idea what it was."

He did not learn that he did have cancer until he was transferred to the care of the specialist Christie hospital after his mother heard about its Teenage Cancer Unit and asked the doctors there to take on his care.

By then the lump on his neck had swelled considerably. It had originally covered an area 2.5cm square, but by the time he was diagnosed, it had swelled to 15cm by 13cm.

"I was then told that Hodgkin lymphoma was one of the easiest forms of cancer to cure and the treatment is very successful," he said.

"I'd be lying if I said I wasn't worried, but I was anxious to get started and frustrated because while all these delays were going on I wasn't being treated.

"I was very relieved when I got the first dose of chemotherapy into me."

Richard, who had not thought about having children, also had to think about his future fertility and decided to have some of his sperm stored in a sperm bank before he started chemotherapy.

"They reckon I have about a 70% chance of everything being normal, but the banked sperm is there in case it's not.

"I just have to have a fertility test at a later date after my treatment has stopped."

He is set to finish his chemotherapy treatment this month, and has been told that there's no sign of any cancer remaining, but he plans to complain about how his cancer was missed for so long.


SEE ALSO
Teen cancer diagnoses 'delayed'
09 Jun 08 |  Health
Stem cell find for child cancer
08 Nov 07 |  Health

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