Campaign for early detection of tumours

Maria Winchester with Consultant ENT Surgeon Simon Baer
Maria Winchester with Consultant ENT Surgeon Simon Baer

A MOTHER who underwent brain surgery to remove a tumour has thrown her weight behind a campaign to promote early detection of brain tumours in children and young people.

Maria Winchester, of Wittersham Rise, is backing the HeadSmart - Be Brain Tumour Aware campaign.

She underwent an operation at King’s College Hospital, London on January 27 to have her tumour removed.

Simon Baer, consultant ENT surgeon at the Conquest, has now given his support to the charity’s campaign, which aims to reduce the time it takes to diagnose brain tumours in children and young people from the current average of 12-13 weeks to five.

HeadSmart is asking GPs and other health professionals to use the education module on the HeadSmart website at to help them recognise more accurately and swiftly, the symptoms of a brain tumour in a child.

With symptoms often mimicking those of everyday childhood illnesses and less serious disorders, a brain tumour may be less easily identifiable than other conditions. A quicker diagnosis may have a significant influence on survival rates and can reduce the long-term effects of a brain tumour, such as blindness, deafness or other disabilities.

Mr Baer said: “Maria is living proof that detection can lead to a full recovery. I would urge my clinical colleagues to be aware of the potential of brain tumours at an early stage in their diagnosis.”

Maria said: “I suffered from headaches, dizziness, feeling faint, depression, anxiety, pins and needles in my hands and feet and the déjà vu of hearing a woman’s voice I recognised in my head. I also experienced tunnel-like vision at times. I would be looking at something and it would appear to get smaller and further away from me as if I was going to pass out.

“One evening I had problems communicating with my husband Matt. I was fully conscious and knew what I wanted to say to him but I couldn’t open my mouth and speak to him. It was like I had a stroke as all I could do was mumble. I had difficulties with concentrating, stuttering and problems with usage of words. A tonic-clonic seizure in September 2011 eventually led to my diagnosis.

“I wouldn’t want any person to suffer what me and my family have been through but I’m very lucky that my tumour was benign and I’m still here to tell my story. As a mum to my two-year-old boy this is also why I’m so passionate about the HeadSmart campaign.

“If health professionals use the brain tumour e-learning module as part of compulsory training and all parents were provided with HeadSmart symptom cards to recognise the signs and symptoms to look out for, children could be diagnosed earlier.

Often this would lead to a better outcome for the child and ultimately save lives.”