AS he peeks out from behind a cushion, it would be easy to assume that Callum Peers is just like any other five-year-old.
But according to his parents, a fear of strangers has emerged since he was diagnosed with an aggressive form of cancer – more than six months after he fell ill.
Despite regular visits to the doctor with symptoms including stomach pains, a loss of energy and high temperature, Callum was not diagnosed with neuroblastoma until the tumour had spread to other areas in his body, and mum Nicola Cummins and dad Alan Peers believe his treatment may have been less intense had he been diagnosed earlier.
“At one point I was taking Callum to the GP surgery three times a week but they just kept telling me he had an infection and sending me away with antibiotics,” said Nicola.
“They then told us he had rheumatoid arthritis and sent us to Alder Hey Children’s Hospital for an appointment. As soon as the doctor there examined him they knew it was something more serious and sent him for tests straightaway.”
Callum has undergone an operation, chemotherapy and radiotherapy, and is now having immunotherapy, a treatment to prevent the cancer returning, but he will still face around an 80 per cent chance of relapse.
“It will always be at the back of my mind that it might come back even if he gets the all clear,” added Nicola, who is Callum’s career.
“I am angry because he might have only needed an operation if it had been caught earlier.
“He was shy when he was younger but he came out of his shell. Since he has been ill he just hides from everyone, at one point he wouldn’t even let people touch him without screaming the house down.”
Callum, who lives on Glebe Street in Leigh with his three brothers and sister, was unable to start at Leigh Infants Primary School last year due to his treatment but Nicola and Alan, who gave up his job as a a painter to help look after Callum, hope he will be able to start this September.
Raj Patel, medical director for (Greater Manchester) NHS England, said: “We are sorry to hear about Callum and our thoughts are with him and his family during this difficult time. We take extremely seriously incidents where a patient suffers distress or harm while in the receipt of NHS care and we will be following this incident up with the practice.
“Neuroblastoma is extremely hard to diagnose in the early stages as initial symptoms are common ones – for example, aches and pains and loss of appetite.
“I would like to reassure parents that this is an extremely rare cancer but I would also wish to alert doctors that they should look for rare conditions when there are persisting, unexplained symptoms.”
Facts about neuroblastoma:
- It is very rare, affecting 100 chidren a year in the UK
- It can start in the child’s abdomen and spread to other areas such as the bones, liver and skin Symptoms include:
- The most common symptom when the cancer has developed is a lump or swelling in the child’s abdomen that can cause constipation, general discomfort and pain.
- A lump in the child’s neck which can make them breathless or cause difficulty swallowing
- bone pain and difficulty walking
- numbness, weakness or loss of movement in the lower body
- anaemia, bruising, bleeding and infections, bluish lumps