A TEENAGER suffering from a brain tumour was sent home from hospital after doctors diagnosed her with depression and told her she was “homesick”.
It took more than two months for medics to spot Megan Thompson was suffering from a potentially lethal tumour when she attended a hospital in Yorkshire.
The Sunderland-born student, who was enrolled on a childhood studies course at Leeds Metropolitan University, was left desperately ill despite repeated trips to hospital.
When doctors finally diagnosed Megan, who is now 20, with medulloblastoma, they discovered a tumour the size of golf ball and ordered urgent surgery.
Megan’s story comes as research from the Teenage Cancer Trust (TCT) released today suggests that those with the illness are being sent home after being told they have a sports injury, depression, or even indigestion.
Figures collated by the charity from 300 sufferers aged between 13 and 24 says that 15% were told they had an infection or virus, 6% were told they were depressed or stressed while 2% were diagnosed with an eating disorder.
Now, at the start of the TCT’s Teenage Awareness week, health chiefs are urging a Government overhaul of the national curriculum in a bid to educate youngsters on spotting the signs and symptoms.
Megan, who lives in Fulwell, Sunderland, with her mum, Sarah, and sister, Alice, 16, a student at St Robert Sixth Form, said: “I started to get the most horrendous headaches and I couldn’t walk properly. It was then that I knew something was desperately wrong.
“I couldn’t cut my food up and I couldn’t hold a glass of water in my left hand. Every time I went to the doctors they told me I was stressed or partying too hard. They dismissed it and said I was homesick.
“Between first going and being diagnosed, it took two months. You rely so much on these people to know what’s wrong and to be able to diagnose you.
“It was December 16 when I had a scan and two days later I was having an operation to remove the tumour. It was very quick for the operation, but it took so long to diagnose.
“It’s so important that people keep a check out and make sure that they are alive to the signs. It can save lives.”
Megan had 12 weeks of chemotherapy and radiotherapy in a bid to wipe the cancer from her body.
But when she suffered a reaction to the treatment, doctors cut short the drugs before placing her on a course of steroids to treat nerve damage.
A side-effect of the steroid meant bones in her leg were eroded and she was forced to undergo a hip replacement which left her needing a wheelchair. Now, after doctors put in a ceramic hip, she’s hoping to follow in the footsteps of the inspirational nurses who helped save her life.
Last month she took her first steps back to independence by getting behind the wheel again to drive.
And in October she will begin an oncology course at York University inspired by the treatment she received at the RVI’s Teenage Cancer Trust unit in Newcastle.
Megan said: “During my treatment I went on steroids, but I had to have a complete hip replacement.
“However, for now I’m perfectly fit. The Teenage Cancer Trust is incredible, they are just so lovely.
“It’s really easy to feel sorry for yourself. You’ve got this horrible demon for no reason, but you realise that you’re not in it alone.”
The most common symptoms in young people are unexplained and persistent pain, a lump, bump or swelling, extreme tiredness, significant weight loss or changes in a mole.