Mum with constant sniffles forced to have entire nose removed in rare surgery

A mum from Liverpool has endured the rare procedure of having her entire nose removed following a cancer diagnosis.

Lisa Mercer believes the removal of her entire nose could have been avoided had doctors detected her cancer earlier, but says her hospital appointments were cancelled six times.

In August 2022, Lisa was diagnosed with stage two paranasal sinus and skull-based cancer after enduring a year-and-a-half of persistent symptoms, including a painful ‘stuffy’ nose, nosebleeds, and headaches.

Following the diagnosis, the 49-year-old underwent a total rhinectomy, the complete removal of her nose, and now wears a magnetic prosthetic attachment.

Describing the nose removal as “traumatic”, Lisa underwent 30 rounds of radiotherapy treatment post-surgery. A recent check-up provided relief as there was no evidence of cancer recurrence.

Lisa says that between November 2021 and July 2022, her scheduled camera appointment to investigate her nostril issues was cancelled six times. The former carer believes that had the appointments proceeded as planned, an earlier diagnosis might have prevented the complete nose removal. She urges individuals with similar symptoms to advocate for thorough hospital referrals.

Residing in Litherland, Liverpool, Lisa reflects: “I wished I’d pushed it more because maybe I’d still have a nose.” Expressing dissatisfaction with the support received, she emphasizes the impact of the full rhinectomy on her life. Despite adjusting to her prosthetic nose, Lisa acknowledges societal perceptions, stating: “I’m just happy to be alive.”

Lisa initially experienced symptoms in January 2021 and sought advice from her GP, albeit without an in-person appointment. Diagnosed with a sinus infection over the phone, she was prescribed an antibiotic nasal spray.

When the symptoms persisted, she returned to her GP twice, receiving different nasal sprays. A private consultation in May 2021 led to a referral for a CT scan, revealing a nose bridge infection.

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As symptoms worsened, Lisa’s attempts to secure an in-person appointment were repeatedly thwarted. A persistent foul smell and sporadic nosebleeds prompted her to seek a specialist in November 2021. Despite being scheduled for an in-person appointment to insert a camera up her nose, she says the session was cancelled multiple times, delaying her evaluation by eight months.

In July 2022, an in-person appointment confirmed a significant hole in Lisa’s septum. Subsequent MRI and biopsy results in August revealed stage two cancer, progressing to stage three. Two surgeries to remove the tumour proved unsuccessful, leading to the eight-hour surgery for a full rhinectomy.

Reflecting on the challenging experience, Lisa acknowledges developing PTSD but emphasizes the supportive care received during and after treatment.

A year post-surgery, she uses TikTok to raise awareness about head and neck cancer, emphasizing the need for prompt diagnosis and urging people to advocate for their health.

A spokesperson for the hospital’s trust said: “We are sorry to learn of Lisa’s concerns regarding her appointments at the hospital and our Patient Advice and Complaints Team will contact Lisa directly to discuss these and offer any further support.”

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