A survey by The Brain Tumour Charity found that more than a third of people with a brain tumour had visited their GP at least five times before they were diagnosed. For the majority it still took more than three visits.
Among them was Brighton Healthcare Assistant, April Watkins (25), who was in her first year at university when she started to suffer from severe headaches. April said, “I thought that maybe I had had a little too much fun. But when I returned home for Christmas the headaches just got worse and worse. The pain was unbearable.”
After 11 visits to different healthcare professionals, April pleaded with her GP to request an emergency MRI scan.
The GP agreed but when April arrived at the London hospital where the scan had been requested, she was turned away and told she would be added to a two-week waiting list.
Frustrated, April returned to university. Shortly afterwards, during a night out on which she had opted not to drink any alcohol, she was surprised to be challenged by a nightclub security man who said her balance was impaired and asked how much she had drunk.
April woke up in severe pain the next morning and was taken to Derriford Hospital in Plymouth where an MRI scan finally revealed that she had a highly-aggressive brain tumour called a medulloblastoma.
“If I don’t operate on you in the next half hour.”
I asked if I was going to die, and the doctor said, ‘Yes, if I don’t operate on you in the next half hour, you’ll die!”
My life was turned upside-down.
April’s surgery lasted more than seven hours, followed by a gruelling regime of chemotherapy and radiotherapy. She returned to Plymouth University to graduate and is now a Healthcare Assistant in Brighton.
April – who acts as a Young Ambassador for The Brain Tumour Charity, said, “Early diagnosis is about giving someone a chance, a sense of hope.
“Your brain is central to who you are so the less damage done to it either by a tumour or the treatment you receive, the better.”
Launched in 2011, HeadSmart has reduced the average time between the first presentation of symptoms and diagnosis of brain tumours in children from 9.1 weeks to 6.7 weeks.