Doctors’ fight to find a suitable test for Stanton cancer victim

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An inquest has heard how doctors struggled to diagnose a man’s cancer because they were unable to carry out a series of tests on him.

John Meekings, 69, of Stanton, told doctors he was allergic to the contrasting medium in CT scans while anxiety attacks meant endoscopy and MRI scans failed. He died at Addenbrookes on May 22 2014.

In recording a verdict of death by natural causes, Suffolk Corner Dr Peter Dean said on Tuesday: “Investigations were hampered by the difficulties he encountered, but that wasn’t anybody’s fault – it wasn’t Mr Meekings’ fault or any of the clinicians’ fault.”

Peter Waugh, a friend of Mr Meekings’ family, said they were concerned the pancreatic cancer diagnosis took so long, at ‘poor’ communication between West Suffolk and Addenbrooke’s Hospitals, that the latter had not asked about weight loss and had not offered sedation for an endoscopic ultrasound (EUS) test .

Pathologist Dr Pawel Wawruch said he found evidence the tumour ‘grew very quickly’ and had spread to other organs.

Mr Meekings’ GP Dr Nicholas Redman said the semi-retired farmer had complained of upper abdominal pain in January 2014. He was given an ultrasound scan, which was ‘unremarkable’ and treated with pain killers.

In the February at West Suffolk Hospital he was diagnosed with pancreatitis, for which he was treated. But in the April Dr Redman sent him back to hospital because he was in severe pain. Dr Redman said it was after that hospital admission that he became concerned it might be cancer.

Emmanuel Huguet, a consultant surgeon in Addenbrooke’s pancreatic team, said weight loss was obvious. To family questions, he said: “It would be impossible to do that endoscopy without sedation. It is difficult to believe they would not have offered sedation when they use it in every other case.”

He said a second EUS under anaesthetic failed because gullet contraction blocked the camera insertion. Without it they could not get samples to see if he had cancer.

He stressed pancreatic cancer presents its symptoms late, so early diagnosis was hard and the death rate high.

Kathy Webb, a nurse at West Suffolk who was responsible for liaison with Addenbrooke’s, said they had regular video conferences and phone conversations on the case.

Craig Vickery, a consultant at West Suffolk, said: “Everyone tried their utmost to make the diagnosis, but every time we came up against problems. I don’t know how we could have done anything differently.”