A beloved Ashington mother-of-five tragically died of natural causes amid a battle with advanced cervical cancer, an inquest has found.
Jennifer Mason, known as ‘Jen’, passed away at the age of 36 on October 6, last year, after suffering from the aggressive form of cancer. The “bubbly” mam had been diagnosed with the disease in March 2020 and had undergone two operations before her death. There were concerns that there had been missed opportunities to diagnose Jen’s cancer sooner, but an inquest held at Morpeth Coroner’s Court concluded it was “not possible” to say if earlier diagnosis or treatment would have prevented the tragic outcome.
Giving evidence at the inquest on Thursday, Dr Sandeep Singhal, a consultant clinical oncologist, who met Jen in March 2020, said she was diagnosed with “locally advanced cancer” at stage 4A. Following initial treatment, which included daily radiotherapy, there were “signs of improvement” after one week and symptoms had improved. By May 7, Jen’s treatment had finished, but further check-ups found that these improvements lasted for a “short duration only”.
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The inquest heard that following further reviews, there was then a plan for “major surgery” to take place at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital, Gateshead after her cancer had returned by October 2020. The major surgery was undertaken that December and there were no complications following Item. But Jen suffered more severe bleeding in the months that followed and she underwent another surgery in July 2021, where either a new tumor, or one that she had recurred was found. Following that major surgery, a palliative care plan was then put in place.
On October 6, 2021, Jen was referred to the Northumbria Specialist Emergency Care Hospital in Cramlington after suffering severe bleeding and further treatment was provided. Sadly, after Jen suffered further large bleeding during treatment, it was decided she should begin receiving end of life care before passing away with her loving family around her. Pathologist, Clive Bloxham, carried out a post-mortem on October 15, last year, and said a tumor was present in Jen’s pelvis area and there had been “bleeding from multiple sources”. He said the medical cause of her death was metastatic cervical carcinoma.
The inquest was told that four months before her cancer diagnosis in November 2019, Jen had presented some symptoms of pain and fever and investigations were undertaken. Dr Singhal said these investigations, which involved a triple swab test “did not pick up anything concerning” regarding cancer at that time and no diagnosis was made. But she was diagnosed with having a possible pelvic inflammatory disease and a scan revealed an abscess on her ovaries. It was also found she had sepsis and an urgent operation then took place to drain the abscess and treat her. During surgery, “nothing abnormal with the cervix” was found and nothing was documented in that respect, the inquest heard.
Tom Semple, asking questions on behalf of Jen’s family, asked Dr Singhal if tests, including a smear test, were carried out earlier, would the outcome have been different. He asked: “Is it possible to say that if Jen started chemotherapy in 2019, that on balance, the complications that she developed, they would likely be avoided or delayed?” Dr Singhal replied: “It is difficult to say, I can’t say that the outcome would’ve been any different. The success depends on the stage of the cancer.” Dr Singhal added that he “could not specify” if the complications of Jen’s cancer could have been avoided if other tests were carried out in November, saying: “There’s a possibility it could have been picked up in the early stages. Still, there’s a possibility that nothing may have been there and only started later.”
Following Jen’s death, consultant James Golding conducted a “high level” investigation on behalf of Northumbria Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust over “concerns” her cancer had been missed during the abscess surgery. However, he told the inquest that during the surgery there was “no record that there was anything abnormal with the cervix at that time”. Nothing was documented by the surgeon regarding Jen’s cervix after the operation either. Dr Golding said he would not expect the cervix to be commented on by the surgeon, unless something unusual was found at the time. Following the investigation, changes have been implemented to improve documentation which means comments after surgery must be made on a digital system regarding the state of a patient’s cervix.
Dr Golding added: “We felt clinically, the right course of action was taken. The documentation could have been better, but her clinical position in November was a potentially life threatening event and needed treating urgently, which was done.”
In a narrative conclusion, Senior Coroner Andrew Hetherington said Jen’s death was a result of “natural causes and metastatic cervical carcinoma”, adding: “It is not possible to say if earlier diagnosis or treatment would have prevented the outcome.”
Before her death, Jen was looking forward to marrying the love of her life, Simon Dodd, and leaves behind her young children, Brennan, Deja, Kiefyn, Esyka, and Xander. Speaking to The Chronicle last year, Simon paid tribute to Jen, saying: “Jen’s left a lot of friends behind, she was the most bubbly person you could ever think of. She said it how it was – if we ask at the funeral who has been on the wrong end of Jennifer’s tongue, everybody’s going to have their hands up!
“She was that bubbly, she made us build a bar in the back garden, a hot tub, a summerhouse – she liked just creating parties for everyone. She would do anything for anyone, she never said no, if anyone ever asked for anything it was always yes, she would use her own time for other people. She put everything in to her kids, all the way up to her last days.”