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Australia Student prescribed Voltaren for undiagnosed brain tumour

05:25  05 december  2019
05:25  05 december  2019 Source:   9news.com.au

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a person wearing a black shirt: Caroline, pictured here during her highschool years, had a long history of debilitating headaches and migraines.© Supplied Caroline, pictured here during her highschool years, had a long history of debilitating headaches and migraines. When Caroline Pippett complained to a doctor about constant headaches, she was told it was stress from her final nursing exams and prescribed Voltaren. A week later she was dead.

Bruce Pippett takes a deep breath. It's been 14 years since his daughter passed away from a rare brain tumour in her frontal lobe at just 26. For him, it feels like yesterday.

Mr Pippett is speaking out now to push for mandatory brain scans for those suffering from persistent headaches, after reading a 9News article about Western Australian mum Liz Heffernan.

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Stephanie Dickson, 24, died from an undiagnosed brain tumour after going to the doctors 14 timesCredit: SWNS:South West News Service. But doctors repeatedly prescribed her with painkillers, blaming the pain on migraines. When her headaches and dizziness became overwhelming

Generally, brain tumours are graded from 1 to 4 according to their behaviour, such as how fast they grow and how likely they are to spread. Low-grade brain tumours – grades 1 or 2 – tend to be slow growing and unlikely to spread, so they're usually classed as benign.

The Melbourne lawyer was on his way to work one Saturday morning in 2005 when his son phoned him with the devasting news Caroline had died. It didn't immediately sink in.

"I drove back from work and it wasn't until I got to the house and saw the ambulance that it really hit home," Mr Pippett told 9News.

As he would soon learn, the Friday before her death, Caroline had taken Voltaren on the advice of a doctor to treat her persistent headaches.

She was diagnosed as suffering from stress and anxiety related to her upcoming final exams for her nursing degree.

"She was two weeks away from getting her nursing degree… she was a very caring person," Mr Pippett said of his daughter.

He said Caroline had a long history of debilitating headaches and migraines and had sought medical treatment that week after her mother observed her on the phone, unable to speak or move for about 20 seconds.

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A day after taking the tablets, Mr Pippett - who had separated from Caroline's mother years before - said his daughter suffered an epileptic fit and passed away.

Never given a scan

a man and a woman posing for a picture: It's been 14 years since his daughter passed away from a rare brain tumour in her frontal lobe at just 26.© Supplied It's been 14 years since his daughter passed away from a rare brain tumour in her frontal lobe at just 26. "The autopsy showed she died from a brain tumour in her frontal lobe. A referral to the hospital would have discovered this," he said.

"At the Coroner's Inquest, a doctor gave evidence that the symptoms set out in the note demonstrated Caroline had had a seizure which is common with brain tumours."

According to Mr Pippett, the Coroner found the doctor "was negligent in not referring her for a scan".

He said despite his daughter's years of suffering, she had never been sent for a brain scan.

a woman smiling for the camera: As Hailey's symptoms grew worse, a neighbour found her unconscious in the field near her house, her loyal dog by her side, barking loudly. (Supplied)© Supplied As Hailey's symptoms grew worse, a neighbour found her unconscious in the field near her house, her loyal dog by her side, barking loudly. (Supplied) The Pippett family eventually made a demand for compensation and reached a confidential settlement.

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"In Caroline's case, if she had been sent for a scan she would have been... I'm not saying that her life would have been saved… but she wasn't given the opportunity," he said.

"As her parents, we probably didn't realise (migraines) could lead to death… but medical practitioners who she had been under possibly saw this might be indicative of some other bad situation."

Call for mandatory scans

Exactly one year after Caroline's death, Mr Pippett woke up with a blinding headache.

"I went to emergency at Box Hill hospital and I mentioned my daughter had died the year before. They gave me a scan immediately," he said.

"Even after Caroline died, my son and wife went to their doctor (and got a scan)…no one thought to have a scan for Caroline (when) these events happened.

"I would certainly push for mandatory brain scans for people who have multiple episodes of bad headaches, call them migraines… I know that imposes a lot of time and pressure on the medical fraternity, but it can help people."

Mr Pippett contacted 9News after reading about Western Australian mother Liz Heffernan and her elder daughter, Hailey.

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Benign tumors can form anywhere. If you discover a lump or mass in your body that can be felt from the outside, you might immediately assume it is cancerous. If surgery can’t safely access your tumor , your doctor may prescribe radiation therapy to help reduce its size or prevent it from growing larger.

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Like Caroline, Hailey suffered for years with headaches that left her with blurred vision and sudden, severe blackouts. She was eventually diagnosed with a brain tumour.

"As with Hailey, it seems doctors attempt to pinpoint causes which have no basis in fact," Mr Pippett said.

a person standing in front of a tree: Val (left) and her sister Lynda.© Supplied Val (left) and her sister Lynda.

"Instead, the law should require mandatory brain scans where a patient has persistent migraines or headaches."

Mrs Heffernan supports Mr Pippett's calls for mandatory brain scans as does fellow Western Australian woman, Val Gilbert. Ms Gilbert's sister died from an aggressive, but operable, brain tumour in 2012.

"I think for ongoing headaches and migraines, brain scans could be a very effective way to check not only for brain cancer but also for pineal cysts," she told 9News.

"Brain tumours are often found far too late and take more Australian children's' lives than any other disease. With earlier detection and treatment some lives may be saved, or at least give more time with loved ones."

In October last year, the federal government allocated $175 million for new Medicare-subsidised MRI licenses so more than 400,000 Australians will have access to scans for cancer, stroke, heart and other medical conditions.

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