A grandmother’s family thought she was going to die when her weight dropped by almost 25% in just two months.
However, her GP referred her to Glan Clwyd Hospital’s Rapid Diagnosis Clinic. It discovered she had kidney cancer and then set out her treatment programme within nine days.
Happily Jean Machin, a retired medical secretary aged 73 and from Rhuddlan, had her cancerous kidney removed five weeks after visiting the clinic and is now feeling “great”.
“The Diagnosis Clinic made me feel like someone was looking after me,” she said. “Something was happening.
“I would describe it as a link. They were very caring there. I felt like I belonged to something.”
Jean, who was diagnosed and treated for breast cancer in January last year, started to feel ill on holiday in Kefalonia last July. She collapsed but assumed it was the heat.
After several more collapses her paramedic daughter Louise took her to Glan Clwyd Hospital’s ED department.
She was booked in for a blood transfusion, iron transfusions and a CT scan but her GP in Prestatyn pushed for her to be referred to the hospital’s Rapid Diagnosis clinic.
Jean, who has 15 grandchildren, said: “I was going downhill. I was tired, lethargic and losing weight. I couldn’t eat. My husband thought I was a goner.
“I went back to my GP in August (last year) because no one had given me a reason for why I was feeling the way I did.
“In the end he said ‘I’m going to refer you to the Rapid Diagnosis Clinic’.”
The weekly half-day clinic assesses patients who present in primary care with vague symptoms and whose GP suspects there is a reasonable risk of cancer. The majority of patients will have a CT scan chest, abdomen and pelvis.
Approximately 50% of patients diagnosed with cancer present with these vague symptoms.
These can include weight loss, appetite loss, non-specific abdominal pain and fatigue.
It is possible these patients have non-specific abnormalities on blood tests, such as abnormal liver function or thrombocytosis – a condition caused by too many blood clotting platelets, which can indicate an underlying disease or infection.
The clinic’s aim is to give all patients either a diagnosis of cancer, a serious non-cancer diagnosis or the reassurance of a non-serious diagnosis. They will also have a management plan, where appropriate.
The Rapid Diagnosis Clinic is staffed by a clinical nurse specialist, healthcare support worker, physician, a radiologist and manager.
“My GP confirmed the referral on the Tuesday,” continued Jean. “I received a call from the clinic on the Wednesday and had an appointment booked for the following Tuesday.
“I really felt somebody was doing something and was going to listen to me.
“At the diagnostic clinic they did my bloods, I had a CT scan and they said I want to see you next week. The staff were lovely.”
However, she was called two days later by another GP from her practice who revealed she had cancer - but it was contained within her kidney.
“When they told me I felt relief, actually,” Jean revealed. “I said, ‘well I’ve got another kidney. I’ve got two kidneys, you can take one away’.”
Five weeks later Jean had her cancerous kidney removed and she has never looked back.
Her husband John, who works part-time as a porter at the Royal Alexandra Hospital in Rhyl, said: “We all thought she was a goner. She looked so ill. The family were frightened. But they were brilliant at the clinic.
“There’s no comparison now with how Jean looked when she was ill.”
Jean added: “I had the op on the Friday and came out on the Tuesday. The doctor said there was nothing more they could do and I would be better off at home.
“When I was ill I just didn’t want to get up. I couldn’t do anything. I was weak. I was 11st 3lb and went down to 8st 9lb in a couple of months.
“About a week after the operation I was eating well again and I felt fine.
“I feel great. We went to York last week and we were walking around, which I couldn’t have done last year. I also did Race For Life. I walked it but I could not have done anything like that a year ago.”
The operation hopefully marks the end of a tough time for the couple. John had bladder cancer in 2013 for which he was successfully treated.
He was then successfully diagnosed and treated for prostate cancer in November 2021, two months before Jean was told she had breast cancer.
“We can’t speak highly enough of Glan Clwyd Hospital,” said John. “They’ve been brilliant.”
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