For most women, a bad bout of thrush is halted by a quick visit to the pharmacy.
But Clare Baumhauer, 44, suffered with what she thought was thrush for two decades, only to find out that it was actually cancer.
The mum of two from Kent went to the doctors at least ten times before she was finally diagnosed with vulval cancer, having spent years in agony after a tear became an ulcer, leaving her unable to sit down.
“I was told it was cystitis, I got fed up with being told the same things,” said Baumhauer.
“I had the same symptoms, itching and burning.
“I was told it could be earlier menopause, I had never heard of vulval cancer, and the GPs are not spotting the symptoms.
“I’m very angry it was missed for so long, if it had been caught five years ago, it might not have turned into cancer – there’s only a 5% chance of that happening.”
Though she says that she’s more shocked than angry that the doctors didn’t know about it.
“They were actually asking me questions about it because I knew more than them,” she explained.
“Now my GP will know what it is if anyone has similar symptoms, but unless a doctor has seen it, people like me will keep slipping through the net.
“A lot of people have the same thing and they’re told it’s thrush or herpes.”
After going back and forth between home and the doctors, inconclusive results led her to give up on looking for help until the pain became unbearable and she decided to visit a different GP.
She was then told she had lichen sclerosis, which had caused cancer to develop.
The doctor commented that if she’d been diagnosed earlier, she could have avoided the trauma, including radiotherapy that has brought on an early menopause.
“Eventually a couple of years ago I noticed a tear in the same area that happens when you have a baby, I just thought it would heal.”
Since her diagnosis, Baumhauer has undergone surgeries to remove the tumour and radiotherapy to kill the cancer.
During this she’s experienced many ups and downs, including being rushed to hospital and being diagnosed with the skin infection cellulitis.
Despite having six lymph nodes removed, she’s still needed more radiotherapy sessions.
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