Monday 25th November 2019
I was 21 years old when I received my diagnosis of Stage 2 Hodgkin Lymphoma. I was at university when I first noticed two small lumps on my neck in October 2016. Apart from being really tired, I didn’t have any other symptoms – however, I still went to my GP.
I went to my GP at university around 4 times and I saw a specialist back home in Manchester twice. I was told there was nothing to worry about, but to come back if anything changed.
It ultimately took 6 months to get my diagnosis, which I received in April 2017.
During the 6 months between this first appointment and my diagnosis, I developed more lumps on my neck and on my collarbone. However, it was only when I had a really large lump, about the size of a satsuma on my neck, that I had a CT scan and biopsy, which ultimately led to my diagnosis.
I am lucky that when my cancer was found, it was still relatively early and I was only stage 2. However, I still had months of appointments before getting a CT scan which showed all the other tumours that you couldn’t see or feel and kick-started other testing to receive my diagnosis.
It turns out this delay to diagnosis is common for young people. The National Cancer Patients Experience Survey 2018 asked cancer patients how many times they visited their GP about a health problem caused by cancer before being told to go to the hospital. In this survey, 16-24 year olds responded ‘I saw my GP 3 or 4 times’ or ‘I saw my GP 5 or more times’ more than any other age group.
Cancer in young people may be relatively rare compared to other age demographics, but Hodgkin Lymphoma is one of the most common cancers for young people my age; I presented with all the classic symptoms, yet it took months to finally receive my diagnosis.
Not only was this period of waiting scary and stressful, as I knew deep down that something was wrong, but it also prolonged the amount of time I had to wait to start treating the cancer.
The longer it takes a young person to receive a cancer diagnosis, the higher the likelihood of a poorer outcome.
I thought my experience and the amount of time it took to receive my diagnosis was rare. However, it frequently happens to other young people. This needs to change.
I strongly believe that young people should have a greater awareness of cancers. They should be empowered to know their bodies and push for answers, and medical professionals should be referring young patients to specialists faster in order to #EndCancerInequality.