Anger as doctors tell 5-year-old cancer boy he has 'infection'

Callum Peers with Mum Nicola and dad Alan

Callum Peers with Mum Nicola and dad Alan

First published in News

AS he peeks out from behind a cushion, it would be easy to assume that Callum Peers is just like any other five-year-old.

But according to his parents, a fear of strangers has emerged since he was diagnosed with an aggressive form of cancer — more than six months after he fell ill.

Despite regular visits to the doctor with symptoms including stomach pains, a loss of energy and high temperature, Callum was not diagnosed with neuroblastoma until the tumour had spread to other areas in his body.

His mum, Nicola Cummins, and dad, Alan Peers, believe his treatment may have been less intense had he been diagnosed earlier.

Miss Cummins said: “At one point I was taking Callum to the GP surgery three times a week but they just kept telling me he had an infection and sending me away with antibiotics.

“They then told us he had rheumatoid arthritis and sent us to Alder Hey Children’s Hospital for an appointment. As soon as the doctor there examined him they knew it was something more serious and sent him for tests straightaway.”

Callum has undergone surgery, chemotherapy and radiotherapy, and is now having immunotherapy, a treatment to prevent the cancer returning, but he will still face around an 80 per cent chance of relapse.

Miss Cummins, who is Callum’s carer, said: “It will always be at the back of my mind that it might come back even if he gets the all clear.

“I am angry because he might have only needed an operation if it had been caught earlier.

“Since he has been ill he just hides from everyone, at one point he wouldn’t even let people touch him without screaming the house down.”

Callum, who lives on Glebe Street in Leigh with his three brothers and sister, was unable to start at Leigh Infants Primary School last year due to his treatment, but Miss Cummins and Mr Peers, who gave up his job as a a painter to help look after Callum, hope he will be able to start this September.

Raj Patel, medical director for (Greater Manchester) NHS England, said: “We are sorry to hear about Callum and our thoughts are with him and his family during this difficult time.

"We take extremely seriously incidents where a patient suffers distress or harm while in the receipt of NHS care and we will be following this incident up with the practice.

“Neuroblastoma is extremely hard to diagnose in the early stages as initial symptoms are common ones – for example, aches and pains and loss of appetite.

“I would like to reassure parents that this is an extremely rare cancer but I would also wish to alert doctors that they should look for rare conditions when there are persisting, unexplained symptoms.”

Comments (3)

Please log in to enable comment sorting

11:13am Mon 4 Aug 14

m.nealon says...

Having spent 20 years working in the NHS and hearing the explanation from a professional, I cannot help feel that when signs and symptoms are very similar between different complaints, it would be crucial to rule out the most serious chronic illness first and work down to the least severe. Starting a diagnosis that way means the disease might not spread as far through time being wasted and people are less stressed. They always look at the least threatening options first offering antibiotics progressing along to the most chronic. Whether this manner is to save expense is another question only those in power can answer. It does seem wrong that a professional will unwittingly admit through his explanation of the difficulty in diagnosing such illnesses that they begin treatment by assumptions it is something and nothing and antibiotics will help when they are clearly aware that there could be a more chronic prognosis given the signs and symptoms. I'd like the most chronic illnes to be considered first to avoid the disease spreading.
Having spent 20 years working in the NHS and hearing the explanation from a professional, I cannot help feel that when signs and symptoms are very similar between different complaints, it would be crucial to rule out the most serious chronic illness first and work down to the least severe. Starting a diagnosis that way means the disease might not spread as far through time being wasted and people are less stressed. They always look at the least threatening options first offering antibiotics progressing along to the most chronic. Whether this manner is to save expense is another question only those in power can answer. It does seem wrong that a professional will unwittingly admit through his explanation of the difficulty in diagnosing such illnesses that they begin treatment by assumptions it is something and nothing and antibiotics will help when they are clearly aware that there could be a more chronic prognosis given the signs and symptoms. I'd like the most chronic illnes to be considered first to avoid the disease spreading. m.nealon
  • Score: 27

8:25pm Mon 4 Aug 14

JustBecause says...

m.nealon wrote:
Having spent 20 years working in the NHS and hearing the explanation from a professional, I cannot help feel that when signs and symptoms are very similar between different complaints, it would be crucial to rule out the most serious chronic illness first and work down to the least severe. Starting a diagnosis that way means the disease might not spread as far through time being wasted and people are less stressed. They always look at the least threatening options first offering antibiotics progressing along to the most chronic. Whether this manner is to save expense is another question only those in power can answer. It does seem wrong that a professional will unwittingly admit through his explanation of the difficulty in diagnosing such illnesses that they begin treatment by assumptions it is something and nothing and antibiotics will help when they are clearly aware that there could be a more chronic prognosis given the signs and symptoms. I'd like the most chronic illnes to be considered first to avoid the disease spreading.
Makes no sense really though does it, if I go to the GP with a migraine do we start with scans for a brain tumour?

The way your suggesting it is we go for the full biopsy, Scans, blood test, etc, and if these are negative, then move down to maybe flu or a cold?

In which case we don't need GP's at all, all illnesses are dealt with at A&E

Thankfully these cases are rare, fingers crossed for the little boy, It must be hell for him and his family, good luck to them.
[quote][p][bold]m.nealon[/bold] wrote: Having spent 20 years working in the NHS and hearing the explanation from a professional, I cannot help feel that when signs and symptoms are very similar between different complaints, it would be crucial to rule out the most serious chronic illness first and work down to the least severe. Starting a diagnosis that way means the disease might not spread as far through time being wasted and people are less stressed. They always look at the least threatening options first offering antibiotics progressing along to the most chronic. Whether this manner is to save expense is another question only those in power can answer. It does seem wrong that a professional will unwittingly admit through his explanation of the difficulty in diagnosing such illnesses that they begin treatment by assumptions it is something and nothing and antibiotics will help when they are clearly aware that there could be a more chronic prognosis given the signs and symptoms. I'd like the most chronic illnes to be considered first to avoid the disease spreading.[/p][/quote]Makes no sense really though does it, if I go to the GP with a migraine do we start with scans for a brain tumour? The way your suggesting it is we go for the full biopsy, Scans, blood test, etc, and if these are negative, then move down to maybe flu or a cold? In which case we don't need GP's at all, all illnesses are dealt with at A&E Thankfully these cases are rare, fingers crossed for the little boy, It must be hell for him and his family, good luck to them. JustBecause
  • Score: 2

10:04am Tue 5 Aug 14

m.nealon says...

I can see your point although I think you are missing mine. You could say: How do you know that it is migraine you are actually suffering from? I'm merely saying where the possible prognosis could be the most severe diagnosis it is a fine line and that is when it's prudent to follow that route first to avoid the problem becoming too late to treat.

Neuroblastoma is difficult to diagnose because of its signs and symptoms being similar to other sickness complaints. That is why I'm saying to go down the most severe illness possibility first. GPS are highly qualified and they know their job and it's there decision to send patients to specialist consultants not in A & E but in their own specialist departments.
I can see your point although I think you are missing mine. You could say: How do you know that it is migraine you are actually suffering from? I'm merely saying where the possible prognosis could be the most severe diagnosis it is a fine line and that is when it's prudent to follow that route first to avoid the problem becoming too late to treat. Neuroblastoma is difficult to diagnose because of its signs and symptoms being similar to other sickness complaints. That is why I'm saying to go down the most severe illness possibility first. GPS are highly qualified and they know their job and it's there decision to send patients to specialist consultants not in A & E but in their own specialist departments. m.nealon
  • Score: -1

Comments are closed on this article.

Send us your news, pictures and videos

Most read stories

Local Info

Enter your postcode, town or place name

About cookies

We want you to enjoy your visit to our website. That's why we use cookies to enhance your experience. By staying on our website you agree to our use of cookies. Find out more about the cookies we use.

I agree