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article imageStudent with brain tumor told by doctors she was just 'homesick'

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By Yukio Strachan     Apr 30, 2012 in Health
A UK student suffering from a life-threatening brain tumor was repeatedly turned away by doctors who insisted her crippling headaches were due to just being 'homesick.'
"It was December 16 when I had a scan and two days later I was having an operation to remove the tumor," said Megan Thompson, Metro news reports. "It was very quick for the operation, but it took so long to diagnose."
Thompson, was just three weeks into her childhood studies course at Leeds Metropolitan University, when her symptoms started, according to UK's JournalLive.
“I started to get the most horrendous headaches and I couldn’t walk properly. It was then that I knew something was desperately wrong," she said. “I couldn’t cut my food up and I couldn’t hold a glass of water in my left hand."
Concerned, the then 18 year old, decided to see a doctor.
"Every time I went to the doctors they told me I was stressed or partying too hard. They dismissed it and said I was homesick," she said.
But she wasn't homesick.
As her symptoms persisted, Thompson persisted in her pursuit to find out what was really wrong.
Doctors finally discovered a brain tumor the size of a golf ball and ordered emergency surgery to remove the tumor.
“Between first going and being diagnosed, it took two months. You rely so much on these people to know what’s wrong and to be able to diagnose you," Thompson said.
Homesickness to Medulloblastoma
Doctors diagnosed her with Medulloblastoma, which is a tumor located in the cerebellum, the part of the brain that controls balance and other complex motor functions, according to Boston's Children’s Hospital.
Medulloblastoma is the most common malignant (cancerous) central nervous system tumor in children.
Why so hard to diagnosis? One reason may be due to the fact that the "symptoms of a brain tumor may resemble other more common conditions or medical problems," the Children's Hospital says.
Common symptoms of Medulloblastoma include:
headache (generally upon awakening in the morning)
nausea and vomiting
fatigue
lethargy
imbalance and lack of coordination
problems with motor skills (such as writing)
neck tilt or double vision
changes in personality or behavior
seizures
Now, the 20-year-old is urging young people to learn to spot the signs of the disease.
Young cancer patients often misdiagnosed
Megan’s story comes as research from the Teenage Cancer Trust (TCT) released today suggests that many youngsters with cancer are being sent home after being told they have a sports injury, depression, or even indigestion, UK's JournalLive reported.
According to the news site, figures collated by the charity from 300 sufferers aged between 13 and 24 says that 15% were told they had an infection or virus, while 2% were diagnosed with an eating disorder.
Survey by the Teenage Cancer Trust
Infection or virus (15%)
It's nothing/you're attention seeking (12%)
Sports injury (10%)
Stress, depression or psychosomatic (6%)
Eating disorder (2%)
The Daily Mail reports that the UK charity Teenage Charity Trust also revealed one in four young people with cancer had a similar experience to Megan and visited their doctor at least four times before they were taken seriously and referred to a specialist.
The Aftermath
After Thompson's surgery, she had 12 weeks of chemotherapy and radiotherapy in order to kill remaining cancer cells in her body.
But doctors soon had to place her on a course of steroids to treat nerve damage caused by the chemotherapy.
While on the course of steroids, another problem emerged. Steroids caused her bones to become brittle, so much so that she was forced to undergo a hip replacement which left her needing a wheelchair.
But her story doesn't end here.
After being inspired by the nurses who helped save her life, she is hoping to help save the lives of others.
In October, she plans to begin an oncology course at York University
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