Stoke Newington cancer patient, 23, refused life-saving cancer treatment twice
- Credit: Archant
A 23-year-old cancer sufferer and face of Teenage Cancer Trust has been denied funding twice for life-saving treatment after nearly two years battling against the disease.
NHS England has refused former Shipwrecked contestant Nadejah Williams, of Hackney, a pioneering type of radiation therapy recommended by her consultant at Mount Vernon Hospital in Northwood to treat a rare form of colon cancer.
Miss Williams was told in March that chemotherapy was only proving effective at keeping the cancer at bay and the best chance of a cure lies in stereotactic body radiotherapy treatment (SBRT), which uses precise pencil beams of radiation to treat cancers once thought to be inoperable. The SBRT treatment would be able to cut out a tumour which is in a lymph node in her colon.
The fashion and magazine stylist was first diagnosed in October 2011 when she was doing an internship in New York. She said: “I had everything in the palm of my hands. I was going places with my life.”
Miss Williams said having her application refused had left her feeling suicidal.
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“This has just ruined my life. I wanted the treatment to kick-start my life. I have been working since I was 16 and was the type to do everything. Now I can’t go outside.
“I’ve missed out on concerts I’ve bought tickets for, I can’t plan holidays and I’ve lost friends.
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“I can’t wash myself. My mum or boyfriend give me showers. I struggle to walk to the kitchen to get a glass of water of water and I can’t even go to Clissold Park across the road.
“The fact that my boyfriend and my family are pushing me is the only thing that’s keeping me going.”
Miss Williams has already undergone chemotherapy and was due to have an operation in March, but doctors deemed it too unsafe as the tumour is close to a blood vessel which carries blood to her bowels. The SBRT treatment was her final hope of a cure. Funding by NHS England was refused on June 13 and an appeal was refused on July 3.
The cancer has a huge impact on her daily well-being. She is only able to empty her bowels once a week or once every two weeks. When she does not empty her bowels, they rub against her tumour causing pain.
Her mother, Michelle Campbell-Cairns, 45, said: “It’s like funding her death certificate. I was told the chemotherapy was keeping the cancer at a standstill. Because they can’t do surgery, this treatment would give her a chance of life. If she does not have radiotherapy it will spread to her vital organs.
“She is barely eating. She was drinking a lot but even her drinking has reduced. She is suffering from nausea.
“This is a rare form of cancer. I’m not looking for special treatment but I want them to take into consideration that this funding was declined because they have never treated anyone with signet ring cell colon cancer before.”
A East and North Herts NHS Trust spokesman said: “We were very disappointed to learn that the Trust’s appeal against the decision made not to fund Nadejah’s treatment using SBRT at the Mount Vernon Cancer Centre had also been successful. We plan to make a further appeal.
“SBRT is a relatively new form of radiotherapy that is used to treat tumours that are considered to be inoperable and/or in a difficult to access part of the body. It is not yet funded routinely by the NHS and individual funding requests need to be made. In Nadejah’s case, it is not possible to use conventional radiotherapy to treat her tumours, which is why her consultants are recommending SBRT.
“Up until April this year, when such funding requests were made to patients’ local primary care trusts, the level of funding approvals was higher than it has been since the system changed earlier this year. Under these new rules/guidelines, it is becoming clear that fewer patients are having their funding approved for SBRT than was the case previously.”
A spokeswoman from NHS England said they could not comment on individual cases.
According to Cancer Research, less than one per cent of all bowel cancer diagnoses are made for people under the age of 25 and that the chance of young person being diagnosed with signet ring tumours is extremely small.