A young woman has shared shocking images of a mouth ulcer that was ignored for three months – but which turned out to be full-blown cancer.
Millie Murphy, 21, said her life has been turned “upside down” after she was diagnosed with cancer in April this year after developing the excruciating ulcer in January.
Thinking that the ulcer would go away on its own, Ms Murphy, from the English town of Doncaster, didn’t push for a second opinion during multiple trips to the doctor, where she claims her concerns were brushed off.
After being spotted by her dentist, the cancer has now spread to Millie’s neck and she claims the signs of the ulcer being cancerous were missed by her GP – despite the mass having trebled in size.
She is now speaking out for the first time to raise awareness as she begins chemotherapy and radiotherapy.
“I’ve had to relearn how to eat and have lost four stone,” Ms Murphy revealed.
“What upsets me most is that this could have been prevented from happening if there was more awareness of this disease.
“I’d had a niggling mouth ulcer on the left side of my tongue. I didn’t think anything of it though.
“It had grown about three times its original size and had started to turn a brown, green colour by this point and bled a lot.
“I would catch the ulcer on my tongue and sat up crying at night in pain.
“But after hearing all this, the doctor looked into my ear and said it was inflamed.
“My GP looked at my mouth and sent me away like I was a pest.”
The day before her 21st birthday, Ms Murphy went for a routine dental appointment and was referred to hospital where she was given the news that she had mouth cancer.
By the time she was operated on, the cancer had spread to 70 per cent of her tongue, the floor of her mouth and the lymph nodes in her neck.
She was forced to have a tracheostomy to breath and feeding tube in her nose. The procedure has left her with scars across her body.
“My life and that of my family’s came to a haltering stop when my consultant broke the news. I felt numb,” she revealed.
“Knowing you are walking around like normal, with this disease tearing through your body, rotting it away was horrible.”
She said it got so bad she was unable to eat or even speak.
After returning home from initial surgery to remove the tumour, Millie was given the crushing news in August that her cancer had spread, this time to the right side of her neck.
Because of the size of the latest tumour and its close proximity to her jugular vein, she now has had to have radiotherapy and chemotherapy.
Due to the the impact of the radiotherapy and chemotherapy on fertility, Ms Murphy has decided to store her eggs as a precaution.
Despite her experience, Millie has feared talking openly about her condition.
But she is determined to do everything she can to fight her cancer off and has been overwhelmed by countless messages of support.
“I’ve been embarrassed to share my journey with people for fear of being judged,” she revealed.
“I find mouth cancer to be disgusting and embarrassing and I’ve feared judgement for having this horrible disease.
“However, I want to raise awareness for people.
“My journey needn’t have been so tough if my GP had originally known the classic signs and symptoms of head and neck cancer.
“I have had the most amazing support and love from my family and close friends throughout this journey my life has taken.”
A spokesperson for Doncaster Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) said they were sympathetic to Ms Murphy and her family while reiterating their commitment to diagnosing cancer early.
“We also have an ongoing education programme with doctors to highlight cancer as a possible diagnosis,” the spokesperson said.
“As a CCG working with GPs in Doncaster, we continue to prioritise the investigation of symptoms and commence early treatment when needed.
“We are making improvements year on year in cancer care but we know more work needs to be done.”