GP dismisses breast symptoms. Can you believe that’s still happening?

This media release from the New Zealand Breast Cancer Foundation makes disturbing reading, and not only because the number of women diagnosed last year hit a new high.

It includes the information that one of the 3003 women diagnosed in 2012 was 47-year-old Nicki Hayles, of Christchurch. Between mammograms, Nicki felt some pain in one breast. When it grew worse, and she noticed some redness on her breast, she went to the doctor. Her GP suggested a cyst, but when Nicki called BreastScreen Aotearoa to postpone her regular mammogram because of the pain, an alert nurse followed up and made sure Nicki was referred to the hospital breast clinic. Mammogram and ultrasound revealed a 2 cm lump, which turned out to be a grade 3 invasive cancer.

I know of someone who died 20-odd years ago because her GP told her three times that she was too young to have breast cancer and I’ve heard similar sad stories from the past. But I find it hard to believe that, after all this time, all of the education and so many awareness campaigns that people are starting to complain about over-exposure there would still be a GP prepared to risk ‘suggesting a cyst’ and not taking the matter any further.