A woman now battling eight tumours says doctors missed her cancer because they were focused on treating Covid victims.
Area manager Joanna Georgiou, 31, from London, says she repeatedly went to NHS doctors because of a small lump on her knee that they failed to recognise as a tumour.
Ms Georgiou says the problem was exacerbated by the pandemic when she was forced to use e-consultations with doctors rather than seeing them in person.
She said that it wasn’t until she paid to go to a private clinic in person that her cancer was diagnosed.
It has now been confirmed Ms Georgiou has a tumour the size of a satsuma next to her heart, six tiny tumours in her lungs and a huge tumour in her knee after being diagnosed with synovial sarcoma, a rare form of cancer that grows in joints.
She says she feels let down by the NHS, that more could have been done to diagnose her cancer earlier and that those without Covid were ‘put on hold’ during the pandemic.
Pictured: Joanna Georgiou, 31, who is now battling eight tumours says NHS doctors missed her rare cancer because they were focused on treating Covid victims during the pandemic
Manager Joanna Georgiou (pictured) has undergone four rounds of chemotherapy and is contemplating having her leg amputated as she continues to fight the aggressive cancer
Pictured: the largest tumour Joanna has is in her right knee which she first noticed in 2016
How Joanna’s cancer went undiagnosed during the pandemic
2016: Joanna noticed a small lump on her knee and was told by her GP to take Ibuprofen to reduce inflammation
2017: The lump had continued to grow forcing her back to the GP and she was told it was a cyst after an MRI and ultrasound. Doctors said she would have to have it drained.
2018: At this stage, the lump had grown to the size of a tennis ball but had still not been drained. Joanna claims she was told it had been too long and that the cyst had now calcified. She was put on a waiting list to have it surgically removed.
Late 2018: By now, the lump had doubled in size and was causing pain and decreased mobility. Joanna says she had heard no news about her operation and chased it with her GP but was told that cancer patients had been prioritised and that there would be a longer wait for her.
2019: Joanna spent the year chasing appointments to have the lump removed as it continued to grow and even changed GP in the hope this would speed up the process.
Mid 2020: The growth had become obviously larger and impacted Joanna’s mobility. She said the pain was also affecting her sleep cycle and painkillers had no impact. Her latest hospital referral to remove the lump, which was still considered benign, was postponed due to the Covid-19 outbreak.
Early 2021: Joanna says the pain was so severe, she rang 111 and was put in touch with a doctor who would make urgent referrals for a new MRI. However, on speaking with her GP she was told no new referrals for scans would be scheduled during the pandemic.
June 2021: Joanna decided to pay for a private consultation where the doctor told her this was serious and needed to be thoroughly and urgently checked, preparing her for a cancer diagnosis.
July 2021: After the private consultant’s MRI, CT scan and biopsy, it was confirmed that Joanna had synovial sarcoma and that the tumour had grown to 18cm.
August 2021: It was confirmed the cancer had metastasized to her chest, with tumours identified on her heart and lungs.
The 31-year-old first noticed the lump back in 2016 and was initially told it was a cyst, given ibuprofen and sent on her way.
Of that first appointment, she said: ‘I’ll never forget that first doctor I went to. I told him I had this soft lump that wasn’t really painful to touch but didn’t feel right.
‘And he barely looked at my leg, he was completely uninterested in what I was saying.’
Joanna says the pain in her joint kept worsening prompting her to see many doctors who prescribed stronger painkillers.
She said: ‘I spent years going to different doctors and specialists because I knew in my gut that something was wrong.
‘I did actually have two types of diagnosis. One was that it was a ganglion cyst.
‘And then after that, it was that I had a calcium bite injury that had a haemorrhage. Through all of that, cancer wasn’t really discussed.
‘At one stage, I was actually told that it was a benign tumour at one point and I went on a waiting list to have it removed.
‘But I was at the back of that list as I was told more important patients with cancer were before me.
‘I would wonder at times if because I was waiting so long whether I’m going to get to a point that I’m going to become one of those important cases.’
In August 2021, she visited a private surgery and was diagnosed with stage 4 synovial sarcoma.
Synovial sarcoma is a rare form of cancer that grows in soft tissue with only three in one million people being diagnosed with it each year, however, it most often grows near joints and can spread very quickly.
Joanna feels let down by the NHS and feels more could have been done to diagnose her earlier.
She said: ‘We believe what we’re told and we trust in our medical professionals.
‘We trust in the NHS and I was just going with what I was told even though I felt like they might have got something wrong.
‘I am upset and I feel let down by the NHS. I feel that I work really hard and I have always paid my taxes and I’m a good British citizen.’
Joanna says that she feels her treatment was further delayed because of the Covid-19 pandemic.
‘Coronavirus is a horrible thing and it’s taken a lot of people,’ she said.
‘I feel that while that was going on, they forgot about everybody else that was ill as well.
‘And that makes me angry too. I just feel that a lot was neglected over the last couple of years because of the pandemic.
Joanna, 31, (pictured in August 2021) says she was let down by NHS doctors and that more could have been done to diagnose the cancerous tumour that had been growing in her knee
Joanna says the problem was exacerbated during the pandemic when doctors were focused on treating patients with cancer and that everyone else was ‘put on hold’ while it ran its course
‘It feels like everyone with cancer or other terminal issues was put on hold while the pandemic ran its course and now health issues have piled up.’
Joanna has gone through chemotherapy, lost her hair and is contemplating having her leg amputated in order to save her life.
‘After four rounds of chemotherapy, the six tumours in my lungs have remained the same,’ she says.
‘The tumour in my knee has actually changed place and shape but has not decreased which is something I have been told can happen.
‘And the tumour near my heart has had the biggest change, it started off being nine centimetres and is now three and a half centimetres which sounds like good news, but overall really does not have that big of an impact on my prognosis.
‘Going forward I have some big decisions to make. I can continue radiotherapy and prolong my life as much as I can.
‘I keep hearing this phrase “prolong my life” and I don’t want to prolong my life. I want to live my life so I am considering surgery.
‘The doctors believe they can remove the tumour from my chest and I would have to have my leg amputated, as there’s no other way to get rid of that tumour.
‘It would be a long road to recovery but I am a stubborn person, and I won’t give up that easily.’
Joanna has also received a lot of support from Macmillan Cancer Support as well as from her GoFundMe page which has raised nearly £20,000.