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“I went through hell” says rare sarcoma cancer survivor

A young mum of two from Leicester who was lucky to survive a rare sarcoma cancer in her throat after having it misdiagnosed for nine months has called for greater awareness and focus on accurate diagnosis of the disease.

Just weeks after giving birth to her second child in February 2022, Radhika Thakrar noticed an alarming lump on her neck. Little did she know, this would be the start of a harrowing nine-month odyssey to obtain an accurate diagnosis and lifesaving treatment for a rare cancer which she was unaware of.

Leicester Time: “I went through hell” says rare sarcoma cancer survivor
Picture: Radhika Thakrar

In March 2022, Radhika, a project manager at HSBC and a busy mum of two young children, raised concerns about the worrying lump with a family member. Immediately, Radhika went to the doctor and got an appointment on the same day. Despite her GP’s referral for an urgent ENT (ear, nose, and throat) evaluation, she was told that due to the Covid backlog, there would be a wait of approximately five months for an appointment. Fortunately, Radhika’s private health insurance allowed her to be evaluated the same day by a doctor, who diagnosed a thyroid issue and prescribed options and numerous continued appointments and went through fine needle aspirations to get given a diagnosis. Radhika says over the next eight months, “I went through hell”. She says she endured a nightmarish ordeal of multiple scans and treatments for a suspected thyroid condition, all while the lump continued to grow alarmingly.

Sensing something was amiss, Radhika sought a second opinion from another consultant, who ordered an MRI and CT scan. This time, the NHS raised the possibility of cancer but ruled out sarcoma, a rare and aggressive form of the disease. Surgery was scheduled for December 12th, 2022, to address the suspected thyroid problem. However, just days before the operation, the sarcoma specialist team in Nottingham intervened, confirming Radhika’s diagnosis: she had liposarcoma, a rare cancer that had manifested as a 12.5cm tumour in her neck. They referred her for surgery with the specialist team. On December 28th, nine long months after her initial symptoms, Radhika underwent surgery to remove the massive tumour from her neck, which went very well, finally receiving the accurate diagnosis and treatment she desperately needed.

Reflecting on her journey, Radhika said, “Those nine months were absolutely terrifying. I knew something was seriously wrong, but I felt like I was constantly being dismissed or misdiagnosed. The uncertainty and fear were overwhelming, especially with two young children depending on me. I’m incredibly grateful to the sarcoma team, who really supported and looked after me. We need more awareness about sarcoma, both among the public and medical professionals, so others don’t have to go through the hell I experienced.”

Leicester Time: “I went through hell” says rare sarcoma cancer survivor
Picture: Sarcoma UK

This month is Sarcoma Awareness Month, and Sarcoma UK are trying to raise awareness of this rare cancer so people can be diagnosed early.  Sarcoma cancer accounts for just 1% of all cancer diagnoses, and therefore, most people, including GPs, have never heard of it.

Sarcoma UK’s Chief Executive Richard Davidson said:  “Radhika’s harrowing nine-month journey to diagnosis underscores the critical need for swifter and more accurate sarcoma detection. These rare cancers, often mistaken for benign conditions, can grow to life-threatening sizes when left undiagnosed. At Sarcoma UK, we’re intensifying our efforts to educate healthcare professionals and fund innovative diagnostic research. Our goal is clear: to ensure that no one faces the prolonged uncertainty and fear that Radhika endured and to significantly improve outcomes for sarcoma patients across the UK.”