A MOTHER has been left heartbroken after her daughter died at 27 years old, after doctors failed to spot her cervical cancer.
A doctor thought Porsche McGregor-Sims’ myriad of symptoms were due to hormones, after she came off contraception.
The aspiring model in fact had an “aggressive” form of cervical cancer which had gone undiagnosed for months.
She had continuously complained of abdominal pain and bleeding – two signs of the disease that kills 850 women every year.
The graduate, known to her family as "Pops", died in April 2020, just one day after the cancer was discovered, having never gotten treatment for it.
A specialist doctor has admitted fault for failing to do an examination earlier, and instead suggesting her hormones were to blame.
Porsche’s mum Fiona Hawke, 52, paid tribute to her daughter shortly after her death, saying losing her was like “having the sun burn out”.
She said: "Porsche always had a sense of joy and vibrancy about her – she shined so brightly and I don’t think we really appreciated that until we heard she was gone.
"She was willing to see the good in everything and everyone, she was a lovely person and losing her is like having the sun burn out.
"It’s frightening to think that someone with so much energy can disappear so suddenly."
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The inquest in Portsmouth, Hants, heard Porsche – who was engaged to be married – underwent her first smear test in 2017.
Although the test uncovered no cancerous cells she was told some had been found to be “abnormal”, the inquest heard. No further action was taken.
Two years later she started to complain of abdominal pain and vaginal bleeding.
In December 2019, her GP referred her to see a consultant.
National guidelines mean the appointment cannot be any earlier than two weeks later in order to see if symptoms subside.
On top of this, due to the Christmas period, Porsche wasn't seen until late January.
She was then seen by Dr Peter Schlesinger, an agency locum doctor specialising in gynaecology, at Queen Alexandra Hospital in Portsmouth.
Dr Schlesinger told the hearing he thought her symptoms were “hormonal” because she had stopped using birth control injections six months earlier.
Fiona also suggested doctors focused on her IBS as a reason for her symptoms.
During the first Covid lockdown in March 2020, Porsche had two phone consultations and was prescribed antibiotics after feeling “short of breath”.
When the antibiotics had no impact and her symptoms worsened, she was brought into Westlands Medical Centre in Portchester, near Portsmouth.
The face-to-face consultation came about only because her GP thought she may have Covid.
Porsche was found to be “severely” short of breath and was rushed to Queen Alexandra Hospital.
She died a day later on April 14 2020.
QUESTIONS OVER DELAYS
Porsche’s case has led to questions surrounding her care both from the GP medical centre and Dr Schlesinger.
Dr Schlesinger apologised to her family for failing to pick up her cancer in the weeks before her death.
He told the inquest: "Porsche had both bleeding between periods and post-coital bleeding (bleeding after intercourse).
"She also told me she had been on a contraceptive until around six months ago. She had had a normal smear test two years previously, and a scan [which showed] no abnormalities.
"I felt there were a number of potential causes to her pain. In view of the fact she had stopped her birth control, I suggested she take it again to see if the pain stopped.
"In light of her normal smear test and her age, I didn't think a vaginal examination was needed – there seemed to be no benefit.
"I was very sorry to hear she was diagnosed with advanced cervical cancer. This type of cancer is rare and is less likely to be picked up on smear tests.
"When I first qualified [in 1987] we examined everyone [physically], but since scans and smear tests have become available we do them less."
The family, including fiancé Mark Chappel and Porsche’s twin brother Deucalion, asked why a physical examination didn't take place.
She was a young woman who was told she might have cancer. She was on her own and scared
Ms Hawke said: "You didn't do the most basic, fundamental thing which is to give a [physical] examination.
"She was a young woman who was told she might have cancer. She was on her own and scared.
"You focused on her IBS (Irritable Bowel Syndrome) and a different type of bleeding… and that just doesn't make sense to me.
"An internal examination is the most fundamental examination to do."
Defending his actions, Dr Schlesinger replied: "The rather specific nature of her bleeding made me think her risk of cervical cancer was small.
"I appreciate the fact I was wrong, but given the myriad of symptoms this young woman had I felt the right approach was hormonal manipulation."
Dr Helen Pandya, representing Westlands Medical Centre, told the inquest: "The Covid pandemic really didn't help during the latter stages but, upon review, we had thought we had done all we could – though we are willing to learn."
Area Coroner Rosamund Rhodes-Kemp suggested that national guidelines which say women suspected of having the disease need to wait two weeks before being seen by a specialist (Dr Schlesinger) may have contributed to her death.
Porsche, had done modelling shoots and had studied drama at Havant and South Downs College in Hampshire before going to Plymouth University to study Events Management.
She met fiancé Mark Chappel whilst at university, and the pair moved back to Portsmouth after finishing their studies.
She also had strong connections to Titchfield Festival Theatre, Hants, and her twin brother Deucalion is still involved with the theatre.
"She always enjoyed her drama," mum Fiona said.
"A love of arts tends to run in the family so she was passionate about it. But she loved her work in organising events, and liked cooking as well.
"The number of people she reached in her short life is the best reflection of who she was.
"We’re all going to miss her."
More than 200 people donated nearly £4,000 to a Just Giving page to contribute to flowers which were woven into Porsche's coffin for her funeral.
She was buried at Sustainability Centre's natural burial ground in Petersfield, Hants.
The inquest was adjourned and its conclusion will be heard at a later date.
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