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'Hospital staff missed ovarian cysts and told me I needed a poo'

Caroline Ballard is determined to raise awareness of the condition endometriosis, which affects one in 10 women, after her experience at West Middlesex Hospital

Caroline Ballard

A woman claims hospital medics missed a series of large ovarian cysts and said the reason for her agonising pain was that she needed to empty her bowels.

Caroline Ballard says staff at West Middlesex Hospital, in Isleworth, dismissed her mother's suggestion that cysts could be to blame, only for her to be admitted days later for an emergency operation to remove the growths.

She is now determined to raise awareness of the common but relatively little-known condition endometriosis - which she believes was responsible for the cysts - so others do not have to go through what she has.

The 26-year-old graphic designer, who lives in Hounslow, says she was taken to the hospital by ambulance in extreme pain on May 26.

She says her mother asked medics whether it could be a cyst as there is a history of endometriosis in the family, only for a doctor to respond that she would be rolling around on the floor in agony were that the case.

They were then told an X-ray revealed nothing except that she needed to empty her bowels, and she was discharged.

When the pain did not subside, her GP referred her back to the hospital, where an ultrasound scan on June 3 revealed four large cysts on her left ovary, the biggest of which was 10cm in diameter - about the size of a grapefruit.

Three of the cysts were removed in an operation on June 5 but she says the remaining one has since grown and she is again suffering extreme abdominal pain and awaiting further treatment.

"I have lost all my trust and faith in the NHS. I want to raise awareness about endometriosis. It affects one in 10 women and yet doctors don't know a thing about it and misdiagnose patients," said Ms Ballard.

"That doctor I saw in A&E point-blank ruled out a cyst just because I was not rolling around on the floor. She delayed treatment, and what annoys me the most is that she told me it was just a poo."

Photos showing one of the cysts removed from Caroline Ballard's left ovary

Endometriosis is a condition where cells like those in the uterus are found outside the womb. It often results in inflammation and pain, and can lead to infertility, fatigue and bowel and bladder problems.

When endometrial tissue is found in the ovary it can cause cysts, like those responsible for Ms Ballard's pain.

Jane Hudson Jones, chief executive of the charity Endometriosis UK, said cases like Ms Ballard's were sadly all too common due to a lack of awareness about the condition among medics and the general public alike.

"Unfortunately we hear of cases like this all too often, and our thoughts go out to Caroline," she told getwestlondon.

"Endometriosis is as common as diabetes and asthma in women; it is incurable and life changing. In spite of this, little is known about the disease and so diagnosis takes, on average, eight years.

"During this time the disease can progress, and rob women of their careers, relationships and fertility."

Ms Hudson Jones added that symptoms include pain during and between periods, and painful sex. She said women could download a fact sheet here to take to their GP if they think they may be affected.

A West Middlesex Hospital spokesman said: "We are unable to comment on individual cases but can confirm that we are currently investigating this complaint and will be responding in detail to the patient once this has been concluded.

"Due to patient confidentiality we are also unable to discuss any on-going treatment."

What is endometriosis?

Endometriosis is a condition where the endometrial cells lining the womb migrate to other parts of the body.

Each month these cells react in the same way to those in the womb, building up and then breaking down and bleeding. Unlike the cells in the womb that leave the body as a period, this blood has no way to escape.

It is a chronic and debilitating condition that causes painful or heavy periods. It may also lead to infertility, fatigue and bowel and bladder problems.

Around 1.5m women in the UK are currently living with the condition.

Endometriosis can affect all women and girls of a childbearing age, regardless of race or ethnicity.

Endometriosis can have a significant impact on a woman's life in a number of ways, including:

  • Chronic pain
  • Fatigue/lack of energy
  • Depression/isolation
  • Problems with a couple’s sex life/relationships
  • An inability to conceive
  • Difficulty in fulfilling work and social commitments

With the right treatment, many of these issues can be addressed, and the symptoms of endometriosis made more manageable.

Information from www.endometriosis-uk.org.

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