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Cancer diagnosis delay like having "awful cloud" over you

Diane McCaughan, who was diagnosed with cancer 10 years ago, has spoken of the distress delays can cause for patients. Picture by Mal McCann
Seanín Graham

A CO Down woman who was diagnosed with breast cancer 10 years ago has described any delays for patients with suspected tumours as 'unimaginable'.

Mother-of-two Diane McCaughan (46), who also lost her mother to the disease, said a delay in determining her diagnosis due to problems with biopsy testing was "horrific".

The Ballyholme woman, who underwent a mastectomy along with chemotherapy and radiotherapy treatment, was given the all-clear in 2011 - but after a routine blood test two years ago received the devastating news that her cancer had returned and spread to her liver, lungs and sternum.

She is now living with a terminal diagnosis.

"I went to my GP with a lump at the age of 36 after my mother’s diagnosis. At the time they weren’t concerned due to my age but because of my family history they referred me to a consultant,” she said.

"Two biopsies were carried out but there were problems with the diagnosis and I had to wait another month before they were certain and could carry out more tests.

"I had two small children, aged six and four, and all I could think about was them. That month was so long and was one of the most difficult parts - it was better to know than not to know.

"I can’t imagine what it is like for anyone who is facing delays after seeing their GP, it’s like an awful cloud hanging over you."

Within two months of learning she had breast cancer, Diane had a mastectomy and reconstructive surgery carried out.

"They told me it was as good as it could be and everything had gone very well. Looking back, I was lucky to have had everything completed in such a short time. The waiting lists are very different now."

A keen runner, Diane completed the Great North half-marathon last year and continues to do a 5kms park run every Saturday morning.

"I underwent eight cycles of chemotherapy after the cancer came back which shrank the tumours. I am currently on different hormone therapies and just trying to stay positive."

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