A woman who lived for two years with a cancer diagnosis – undergoing nine cycles of treatment and requiring egg preservation due to treatment posing a risk to her fertility – was then told she’d been wrongly diagnosed and had never had cancer at all.
Megan Royle says she was left in ‘complete shock’ when doctors told her there had been a mistake and that she had endured almost two years of treatment, surgery and worry for nothing.
Now, she has been awarded compensation by both the Royal Marsden NHS Foundation Trust, which runs The Royal Marsden Hospital, and Imperial College Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust, which runs the pathology service used by Chelsea & Westminster Hospital, as both misinterpreted her results in September 2019, leading to the misdiagnosis.
It was only discovered that Megan had been wrongly diagnosed when she moved north in 2021, and her treatment was transferred to another Trust, which reviewed her records.
“Whenever I tell anybody that this happened to me they say it is quite unbelievable, and even for me it feels a bit like that because it is so hard to get your head around,” said Megan, of Beverley, East Yorkshire, who works in theatre as a hair and make-up artist.
“You just can’t really believe something like this can happen, and still to this day I’ve not had an explanation as to how and why it happened. I spent two years believing I had cancer, went through all the treatment and then was told there had been no cancer at all.”
GP made referral due to concerns about mole
Megan was referred for a dermatology review at Chelsea & Westminster Hospital by her GP in September 2019 after explaining that a mole, which she’d had on her upper right arm for some time, had recently increased in size, become itchy and had scabbed.
A biopsy was carried out and reviewed and Megan, who was 29 at the time, was told melanoma – a type of skin cancer – had been identified.
She was then referred to the specialist cancer unit at The Royal Marsden Hospital. Her biopsy was reviewed and, again, Megan was told that this confirmed a melanoma.
She was recommended, and subsequently underwent, a 2cm wide local excision of tissue to remove the cancer and told she required adjuvant treatment, which she was warned could impact on her fertility, and was so advised to have egg preservation.
Following nine treatment cycles, between February 2020 and May 2021, she was told there was no sign of the disease and placed onto a three-monthly review programme, which was transferred to another Trust when she moved back up north, having been unable to work in her theatre-based role throughout the pandemic.
It was then, when the new Trust reviewed her file and scans, that it was discovered that a mistake had been made.
“When the doctors sat me down and told me it took a while to sink in. You’d think the immediate emotion would be relief, and in some sense it was, but I’d say the greater emotions were frustration and anger,” added Megan, now 33.
“When I was first told I had cancer and that I needed surgery to remove it and treatment which could impact on my fertility, my approach was simply to say yes, let’s do what we need to do. I wasn’t thinking about having children at that time, but having children was always something I planned for later in life, so having eggs preserved was something I didn’t hesitate doing. All in all, I got my head around it pretty quickly, as difficult as that was.
“However, then to be told two years later, having undergone the treatment and lived with the worry, I found being told I’d never had cancer at all hard. I wasn’t in a good place for quite some time to be honest, strange as that may seem.
“Looking back on it now it almost feels like it wasn’t me. I’m not in a relationship at present and I travel with my job, so starting a family is not on the agenda. I was told my fertility could be affected for up to five years after the treatment.”
Damages agreed out of court
Following legal representation by Hudgell Solicitors, Megan has now been awarded a compensation settlement, agreed out of court, by Royal Marsden NHS Foundation Trust and Imperial College Healthcare NHS Trust.
Associate Solicitor Matthew Gascoyne, who represented her, said: “This was obviously a quite unusual case in that Megan was mistakenly diagnosed with skin cancer, something which obviously had a significant psychological impact upon her given her young age. This was exacerbated by her needing surgery, and being advised that the only treatment she could have may impact upon her fertility.
“She suffered from sickness throughout her treatment, so it was a difficult time for her. Finally, the psychological impact was worsened by being given the news that she’d not had cancer at all. All of this was entirely avoidable.
“It was only when her post treatment care was transferred to another Trust that this was discovered. Had she not moved, she may well now still be in a situation where she was believing she was in remission and that the cancer could return.
“As part of our legal case, an independent pathologist also confirmed that the samples showed no cancer. It really was an unusual situation which of course Megan should never have been put through. She is looking forward now and we were pleased to be able to represent her to reach this result.”