A mum-of-three who was told she had ‘really bad anxiety’ was actually suffering from a potentially deadly brain tumour.
Police officer Emma Capper says she felt unwell for weeks but struggled to get a face-to-face doctor’s appointment. The 39-year-old was finding it hard to turn her head and felt “unsteady” on her feet.
After eventually visiting medics, she was diagnosed her with anxiety and given beta blockers for high blood pressure. Emma, from Oldham, says she was also prescribed anti-sickness medication for dizziness over the phone.
But when her symptoms worsened and she began throwing up, Emma decided to to bypass her GP and go straight to an emergency ward. Doctors there finally invited her for a head scan which revealed she had a “large growth” at the back of her head – later shown to be cancerous.
Emma was then rushed to a specialist hospital where surgeons successfully removed the tumour eight days later. Now the mum believes she may have suffered for months if she’d accepted her local clinic’s diagnosis and needs new tests to see if the cancer has spread.
She said: “If I’d not gone to A&E that day, I’d still be walking around feeling as unwell. I don’t know how I was managing going to work every day. Up until my head was scanned, it was not possible to know if it was there or not.
“Unless the doctors were going to have referred me for a scan, this was never going to have ended. Speaking to the doctors in hospital, the next thing was seizures. I’ve now had to give my driving license up as I’m not considered as being safe to be able to drive.”
Emma said that she first rung her clinic in Oldham on May 11 this year. The mum, who’d previously beat breast cancer, thought something was wrong when she got strange headaches while feeling sick and unsteady on her feet.
She said: “I had to turn my whole body in order for me to turn my head without it being really, really painful and I had this weird feeling. So I rang the doctor to try and get an appointment. I did get a phone call later that day, but it was from a nurse, not a doctor.
“She prescribed me some tablets from that telephone consultation, anti-sickness tablets, and then invited me in for an appointment the next day.”
Emma went to the surgery the following day but was seen by a nurse rather than GP, who she claims misdiagnosed her with “really bad anxiety”. Emma said: “She took my blood pressure, which was really, really high, and then the appointment became about that.
“And they sent me home with beta-blockers to take as and when I felt I needed to. She told me I had really bad anxiety, and told me she was going to make me an appointment to see a councillor.”
Over the next weeks, Emma’s condition failed to approve and she suspected her breast cancer may have spread to her brain after looking at her symptoms on the internet. She phoned her local GP again on June 1 but was unable to get a face-to-face appointment with a doctor who instead gave her a phone consultation.
She said: “The doctor rang me later that day, and I explained my symptoms and that they were getting worse. After that call, the GP prescribed me tablets over the phone that was to do with what you would prescribe someone who had vertigo, as he then decided that’s what he had.”
A few days later, on June 4, Emma began throwing up and chose to go to a local emergency unit after getting advice from her dad, who is a nurse. She said: “I rang him that morning in tears on the phone as I’d woken up and been sick and felt dizzy. He said, ‘Look, you need to take yourself off to the hospital’.”
“Hours later, I saw a doctor. She actually said to me ‘Do you need a head scan?’ and I said, ‘Yes please’ as that’s what I wanted. When she came to fetch me from the waiting room, she said, ‘Do you want to ring your partner’. I said ‘I know what you’re going to tell me now you’ve said that.’ The CT scan had shown that there was a large growth at the back of my head.”
Emma was then rushed to Salford Royal Hospital, and eight days later, surgeons removed the tumour from her head. She will now undergo radiotherapy treatment.
But she still feels shocked that her GP failed to spot the possible links between her breast cancer and brain tumour – and chose not to refer her for a brain scan.
She said: “From my reading, one of the most common places breast cancers go is a secondary cancer of the brain, so if I figured that out. So I just think that sending me for a scan would have been a good idea.”