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Mum-of-two could ‘have died’ after aggressive cancer mistaken for fibroids

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A mum-of-two claimed she ‘would have died’ if she hadn’t sought private healthcare while living with symptoms of an aggressive form of cancer.

Emma Halliwell, 43, first started experiencing pain in 2017 but was told it could be due to her age or medication.

She told LancsLive: “Things got worse so I went to see a different doctor who sent me for some scans”.

An MRI scan revealed what doctors thought was a 20cm by 20cm fibroid, which Emma described as the “size of a football in my uterus”.

Fibroids are non-cancerous growths that develop in or around the uterus and can cause issues such as painful periods, tummy pain and constipation.

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Not long after this the just-qualified English teacher started a new job but on her first day she was forced to leave due to severe pain and bleeding.

She was then diagnosed with sepsis and spent six days in hospital on a drip.

But when a doctor told her there would be a long wait for another scan, Emma’s dad paid for her to see a private doctor.

This doctor disagreed with the diagnosis and instead said a hysterectomy – a procedure to remove the uterus – was required.

Further testing showed it was actually cancer – more specifically a type of sarcoma called leiomyosarcoma.

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Emma recalled: “I started to feel better and was told I’d find out if it was anything nasty within six weeks.

“Seventeen weeks later, I had an appointment. He called me in and said ‘sarcoma this’ and ‘sarcoma that’. I said, ‘can I stop you, what are you talking about?’.”

The doctor explained it was definitely not fibroid-related but cancer. He also warned there was a “concerning” nodule spotted in her lung.

More scans and referrals followed leading to chemotherapy which she started in February 2022.

Emma also underwent surgeries including one to remove a tumour.

She said: “I had to stop after that to be told there’s more regrowth in my tummy and another nodule in my right lung so I’ve got to go back on chemotherapy this week.

“It’s a very aggressive cancer and not many people have a long lifespan after their diagnosis with a sarcoma cancer.

“It’s a lot to deal with and a lot to take in. At the moment, I’m finding the silver lining is it’s still in the same place and not spread.”

She warned others to push for answers if they think something is wrong.

“I hear so many people say it’s fibroids, that’s all I thought mine was,” Emma said.

“I would have died had I not gone private and seen another gynaecologist that he referred me to because the wait time was going to be so long.

“That could be someone else in my position and it could be worse.

“People really need to push for their health.

“I just want more awareness for this cancer because it is becoming more and more common and it’s almost always mistaken for fibroids first.”

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  • Posted on July 4, 2023