Megan Royle underwent immunotherapy and surgery before finding out she'd never had the disease
Cancer treatment is known for being particularly brutal. But people will endure almost anything to prolong, or even save, their lives.
And yet, one patient who underwent nine cycles of immunotherapy, plus surgery, after being told she had skin cancer, discovered two years later that it had all been for nothing.
Theatrical make-up artist Megan Royle, 33, was left in “complete shock” when doctors informed her she’d been misdiagnosed with the disease, even though she’d undergone intense and invasive procedures.
Megan, from East Yorkshire, said she struggled to understand what had happened, telling the PA news agency: “You just can’t really believe something like this can happen, and still to this day I’ve not had an explanation as to how and why it happened.
“I spent two years believing I had cancer, went through all the treatment and then was told there had been no cancer at all.”
The 33-year-old was referred for a dermatology review at Chelsea & Westminster Hospital by her GP in 2019 when she reported that a mole on her upper arm had increased in size, and become itchy and scabbed.
A biopsy was carried out and reviewed Megan, then aged 29, was told melanoma – a type of skin cancer – had been identified.
Megan was told by two different hospitals that she had a melanomaPA
She was then referred to the specialist cancer unit at The Royal Marsden Hospital. Her biopsy was reviewed and, again, she was told that this confirmed a melanoma.
As a result, she underwent a 2cm wide excision of tissue to remove the “cancer”.
The makeup artist was told that the immunotherapy treatment she was receiving could impact her fertility, and so she had her eggs frozen.
In May 2021, following nine treatment cycles, she was told there was no sign of the disease, and she moved up north.
When a new hospital trust reviewed her file and scans, the error with her diagnosis was discovered.
“When the doctors sat me down and told me it took a while to sink in,” she recounted. “You’d think the immediate emotion would be relief, and in some sense it was, but I’d say the greater emotions were frustration and anger.
“When I was first told I had cancer and that I needed surgery to remove it and treatment which could impact on my fertility, my approach was simply to say ‘yes, let’s do what we need to do'."
“I wasn’t thinking about having children at that time, but having children was always something I planned for later in life, so having eggs preserved was something I didn’t hesitate doing. All in all, I got my head around it pretty quickly, as difficult as that was.
However, she went on: then to be told two years later, having undergone the treatment and lived with the worry, I found being told I’d never had cancer at all hard.
“I wasn’t in a good place for quite some time to be honest, strange as that may seem.”
Megan said the news of her misdiagnosis hit her hardPA
She took her case to medical negligence specialists Hudgell Solicitors who won an out-of-court settlement with the Royal Marsden NHS Foundation Trust, and Imperial College Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust, which host a joint pathology service used by Chelsea & Westminster Hospital.
Associate Solicitor Matthew Gascoyne said: “This was obviously a quite unusual case in that Megan was mistakenly diagnosed with skin cancer, something which obviously had a significant psychological impact upon her given her young age.
“This was exacerbated by her needing surgery, and being advised that the only treatment she could have may impact upon her fertility.
“She suffered from sickness throughout her treatment, so it was a difficult time for her. Finally, the psychological impact was worsened by being given the news that she’d not had cancer at all.
“All of this was entirely avoidable. It was only when her post-treatment care was transferred to another Trust that this was discovered.
“Had she not moved, she may well now still be in a situation where she was believing she was in remission and that the cancer could return.”
She has now won compensation from the two trusts.
A spokesperson for The Royal Marsden NHS Foundation Trust said: “We wish to offer our sincere apologies to Megan Royle for the distress caused by her experience at our trust and we are pleased that a settlement has been agreed.”
A spokesperson for North West London Pathology, a joint partnership hosted by Imperial College NHS Trust, said: “We are deeply sorry for the distress caused to Ms Royle and apologise unreservedly for the error made.
“While no settlement will make up for the impact this has had, we are pleased an agreement has been reached.”