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‘I can’t have the operation that could save my life’: Addenbrooke's Hospital cancels lifesaving cancer treatment because of coronavirus

A man whose ‘life-saving’ surgery to remove a brain tumour was cancelled said the coronavirus was forcing hospitals to make decisions about who lived and who died.

Seventy-two-year-old James Byrom had been due to have his surgery on Monday at Addenbrooke’s Hospital but as he and his family prepared for his admission on Sunday they were told the operation had been postponed indefinitely.

“We won’t be doing it, we can’t do it, is what I was told,” said Mr Byrom, a retired civil engineer, who lives in Burwell.

Addenbrooke's Hospital Picture: Keith Heppell (33259866)
Addenbrooke's Hospital Picture: Keith Heppell (33259866)

His tumour was first diagnosed four weeks ago after his wife, Pauline, spotted something was not right with his speech. “I just wasn’t using the right words and she asked me ‘why are you talking rubbish?’,”said Mr Byrom.

“We made an appointment at the doctors and our GP Alex Manning was fantastic. He referred me straight to a specialist. At Addenbrooke’s I was told I needed surgery, which, if successful, could see all the cancer removed, and it needed to be done as soon as possible.”

Mr Byrom faced a five-hour operation for much of which, due to the nature of the surgery, he would have been conscious. Now the operation has been cancelled due to risks associated with coronavirus, Mr Byrom has instead been offered radiotherapy, which his family say could give him a few more months.

“I have never been a person who cries a lot,” said Mr Byrom, “but I am devasted that I can’t have an operation that I was told would save my life. Now the hospital is having to make decisions about who lives and who dies.”

Addenbrooke’s medical director Ashley Shaw said: “We are working as hard as we can to keep our cancer services running as normal, however, there are some procedures that are being delayed or delivered differently at this time.

“Where this is the case we are taking the time to explain carefully what options we can offer our patients and how this will impact on their outcomes.”

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