The family of a 27-year-old woman who died from cancer believe she would still be alive today had it not been for delays caused by the pandemic.
Latifah King, from Leicester, started suffering from severe leg pain in October but was told by doctors it was “bad sciatica” and given painkillers.
She underwent hospital tests in December when her condition worsened.
At the start of February she was diagnosed with epithelioid sarcoma and died seven days later.
Her family claimed it was the lack of opportunity to see a doctor in person in October and November that delayed an accurate diagnosis.
Her twin sister Shanika said: “They would say to you, ‘You need to wait for a doctor to call you back’.
“Then it’s the doctor who’s calling you back who determines if you’re sick enough to be seen.
“So when they’ve seen my sister’s records, they’ve said, ‘We’re not going to see you, we know you’ve got sciatica – here’s some codeine’.”
The family said they experienced further delays when Ms King started having hospital tests after her condition worsened further.
“We had to constantly badger them for information,” Shanika said.
“They took biopsies but even then we were told we’d receive information on the Monday or Friday – but it never came round.”
The biopsies gave a diagnosis of epithelioid sarcoma – an aggressive cancer affecting body tissue – at the start of February but it was too late for treatment.
Shanika said: “It’s like they got our hopes up because they told us she would go in for treatment on the Monday, for radiotherapy, but by the Saturday they turned around and said we’re very sorry, her treatment’s cancelled and she’s got a few days to live.”
She died about a week after her diagnosis.
Her mother, Lizzie Molyneaux, said: “It’s every mother’s nightmare. For me to watch my daughter go downhill from the person she was to how she became, it was heartbreaking.”
Cancer Research UK believes tens of thousands of cancer cases may have been missed in the UK last year due to the pandemic.
A government spokesperson said: “Cancer diagnosis and treatment has remained a top priority throughout the pandemic, with 1.7m urgent referrals and over 228,000 people starting treatment between March and December last year.”
“An extra £1bn will be used to boost diagnosis and treatment in the year ahead,” they added.
A spokesperson for the University Hospitals of Leicester NHS Trust said: “We offer our deepest condolences to Latifah’s family. We encourage them to contact us and the other NHS organisations involved directly to enable the concerns they raise to be investigated.”