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13 Doctors Thought Teen's Brain Tumour Was Migraine

14/08/2014 16:55 | Updated 22 May 2015

Thirteen doctors thought teen's brain tumour was migraine

A teenage girl was seen by 13 doctors 24 times in one year – but despite that, the brain tumour that eventually killed her went undetected.

None of the doctors ordered a crucial MRI scan for 16-year-old Natasha Simmonds until it was too late. They believed she was suffering from migraine headaches and, her mum claims, she was even accused of faking the symptoms.

Natasha's mother, Sarah said that three months before her daughter died, one A&E doctor accused her of 'putting the symptoms on' and refused to give her a scan because they were reserved for 'life and death' situations.

Natasha, who was studying for a career in childcare, complained of headaches, numbness in her limbs, back pains, vomiting and problems with her eyesight.

But the paediatrician in charge of her care dismissed the symptoms as migraines.

Natasha died on January 24, eight days after the tumour was finally discovered. It had twisted around her brain and spine.

But mum Sarah, 47, told the Mail: "We'll never know what would have happened if she'd been given an MRI scan when we first asked for one.

"At the very least she wouldn't have died so suddenly and so frightened. "We were so shocked. We'd been told for so long that it was migraines, we never thought it could have been cancer. She knew she was really sick and before her second operation she begged me to take her home so she could die. She spent the last few days of her life terrified."

An inquest heard that Natasha, from Radstock in Somerset, had been attending hospital since 2008 and her condition got much worse in 2010.

She was referred to associate specialist paediatrician Colin Downie at Bath's Royal United Hospital in February 2012, who said she had migraines.

Because Natasha seemed to improve between each episode of ill-health, he said her symptoms were not serious enough for an MRI.

In the 11 months that followed, Natasha saw four paediatric doctors, six GPs and three A&E doctors, all of whom failed to diagnose the cancer.

Dr Downie finally ordered an MRI in November, nine months after he first saw the teenager, but the scan did not take place until January and the results were delivered only eight days before Natasha died.

The scan showed a rare cancer – a disseminated oligodendroglioma-like leptomeningeal tumour.

Dr Downie told the inquest he regretted not asking for the scan to be carried out urgently.

Natasha was admitted to Frenchay Hospital in Bristol and had two emergency operations on her brain and spine.

She died on January 24, from lung damage caused by the cancer.

At the inquest, Avon coroner Maria Voisin recorded a narrative verdict, concluding that Natasha had died from natural causes.

She said there was no need to make a formal recommendation for changes at the hospital.

A spokesman for the Royal United Hospital Bath NHS Trust said: "In the next few weeks many of the clinicians who looked after Natasha will be meeting to discuss this sad case and ensure that any opportunities for learning are not missed."

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