Girl Dies After Doctors Say ‘Stop Googling Symptoms’
It’s a popular online joke to say that you had the flu until you Googled your symptoms: after that you’re convinced you were dying. Sadly, this scenario became a reality rather than a joke for a British teenager did Google her symptoms and was correct that she was, in fact, dying. Unfortunately, her doctors did not take her concerns seriously enough and instructed her to stop Googling Symptoms. Advice that later contributed to the death of 19-year-old Bronte Doyne.
In 2011, Bronte was diagnosed with fibrolamellar hepatocellular carcinoma (fibrolamellar HCC). Fibrolamellar HCC is a type of liver cancer that, according to the Cancer Treatment Centers of America, typically responds well to treatment. The cancer is rare, affecting only 200 people a year worldwide, but those who do have this type of cancer often have a good prognosis.
Bronte Doyne, too, was told her prognosis was good. The teen, and her mother Lorraine, were told that Bronte would make a full recovery after undergoing surgery to remove part of her liver. She scheduled and underwent the surgery in December of 2011, but never stopped keeping a keen eye out for symptoms that her cancer had returned. Bronte had learned through her own research that fibrolamellar HCC often returns and was concerned her cancer might come back, despite reassurances otherwise from her doctors.
The cancer warning signs Bronte was likely looking for may have included:
• Unexplained weight loss
• Anorexia (loss of appetite)
• Nausea and vomiting after eating
• Persistent weakness and fatigue
• Abdominal swelling
Liver cancer also causes pain in the right upper abdomen or near the right shoulder blade. Unfortunately, Bronte suffered this pain before her surgery and was terrified when it returned later. She was also constantly tired and, according to her family, “getting thinner by the second.”
Based on the way Bronte’s body began to feel and the research her and her mother had done on the internet, Bronte and Lorraine were convinced Bronte’s cancer had come back. Doctors repeatedly dismissed their concerns, however, and told Lorraine to “stop Googling Symptoms.” As revealed by various journal entries and Twitter posts Bronte made during the time, it was clear that the teen was both terrified of her cancer and angry that no one seemed to be taking her seriously.
On March 23, 2013, the teen lost her battle with her own body and died after ten days in a teen cancer ward. Those days were preceded by a struggle to get the teen into a medical care facility after doctors dismissed her, claiming she had no need of medical care.
RELATED ARTICLE: Lower Your Chances Of Ever Getting Cancer
Lorraine Doyne believes her daughter’s death could have been avoided had the hospital staff and doctors taken the family more seriously. She filed a formal complaint against them after Bronte’s death, in which she included her daughter’s journal entries begging for help. The Nottingham University Hospitals NHS Trust did issue an apology, stating that they “did not listen with sufficient attention” to the family and “should have referred Bronte to the expert support available from the Teenage Cancer Trust much sooner.”
Bronte’s mother isn’t satisfied with the apology alone, however. She has made Bronte’s journal entries and tweets available to the public so that her daughter’s own words can describe both her pain and anger. She is diligently campaigning for changes to the system to allow patients, their family members and other advocates to be taken more seriously by those in the healthcare system. As for the Nottingham University Hospitals NHS Trust, they have vowed to embrace the modern world and the internet. They are working with Lorraine to improve patient communication.
While it is important to trust only credible sources when it comes to healthcare information online, patients today have more medical information at their fingertips than ever before. When used wisely, this information can help patients take an active role in their own medical care. The next time you’re feeling under the weather, be sure to consult a licensed physician, but don’t hesitate to consult Google too.