A 27-year-old aspiring model sought treatment for troubling symptoms she was experiencing. Her doctors dismissed her condition and told her it was just “hormonal.” They were wrong, and she died just one day after receiving a proper diagnosis.
UK model Porsche McGregor-Sims first reported unusual abdominal pain and bleeding to her primary care doctor in December 2019. She was referred to a gynecologist a month later, New York Post reported.
McGregor-Sims’ gynecologist, Peter Schlesinger, didn’t initially see that she had an aggressive form of cervical cancer after the clinician deemed that further examination would yield “no benefit” at her age. She had recently stopped taking regular birth control injections, which they presumed was a “hormonal” shock to her system.
Her tragic demise marks a disturbing trend that many women experience in an overwhelmed health care system: Often, their symptoms are written off by doctors as psychological or hormonal. Making matters worse, her doctor added that, had a “chaperone” been present to observe their visit, he “may have carried out a full physical examination” to reveal any physical anomalies.
“If someone was in the room with me I probably would have done [more]. But we are all here today with the benefit of hindsight,” her gynecologist said.
“A standard Pap smear or scheduling a CT scan would have also taken more time, particularly during the holiday season, McGregor-Sims’ gynecologist said, and full physical exams are not as common these days,” New York Post added.
Some believe this is one of the problems with the UK’s national healthcare system of socialized medicine. The patient often has only one avenue to seek treatment and at times falls through the cracks.
“The United Kingdom’s National Health Service, which celebrated its 70th anniversary on July 5, is imploding,” Forbes reported. “Vacancies for doctor and nurse positions have reached all-time highs. Patients are facing interminable waits for care as a result. This August, a record number of Britons languished more than 12 hours in emergency rooms. In July, the share of cancer patients who waited more than two months to receive treatment soared.”
The coronavirus pandemic was just beginning when McGregor-Sims called her family doctor in March 2020, complaining of shortness of breath, for which she was given a course of antibiotics. As those symptoms progressed, her doc suspected she had contracted COVID-19 and booked her into Westlands Medical Centre for a consultation.
Sadly, her respiratory condition was so poor, she was quickly transferred to Queen Alexandra Hospital — where she died, on April 14, 2020, according to the New York Post.
Porsche’s family spoke out about the botched diagnosis and treatment MacGregor-Sims received. “You didn’t do the most basic thing — give her an internal examination … one of the most simple and fundamental ways to assess someone for cervical cancer,” her mother, Fiona Hawke, said. Hawke, 52, also claimed that the doctor was more interested in McGregor-Sims’ irritable bowel syndrome and other reasons for bleeding, “and that just didn’t make sense to me,” she added.
Local coroner Rosamund Rhodes-Kemp has also suggested a reassessment of national guidelines, which stipulate that patients can be seen by doctors for certain symptoms no sooner than two weeks after their initial complaint — a time period in which many minor illnesses subside on their own. The purpose is to prevent unnecessary patient consultations in lieu of more pressing cases.
Rhodes-Kemp also noted that cervical cancer is usually slow-growing. “The only option was to do the priority referral,” the coroner said. “Four weeks is still quite fast. I think there is a structure [doctors] have to adhere to. This structure may be at fault.”
Before recent diagnostic breakthroughs, cervical cancer was the most common cause of cancer death among women. Now, each year in the United States, an estimated 14,480 women will be newly diagnosed, and 4,290 of them will die from the disease, according to the American Cancer Society. However, its symptoms, including pain, abnormal menstruation and spotting, fatigue and weight loss, can be difficult to track.