Chance comment to GP leads to potentially life-saving diagnosis

PA

A nagging sore shoulder led businessman Nick Hopkinson down a path which saw him diagnosed with haemochromatosis and having half his liver removed to save his life from cancer.

Mr Hopkinson, who is the High Sheriff of Cheshire, believes he may not have known about the cancer until it was too late if not for a chance comment during routine doctor’s appointment in 2009.

“Under normal circumstances, I might not have mentioned the shoulder,” said Mr Hopkinson, 60.

Nick Hopkinson is also the High Sheriff of Chester (Nick Hopkinson/University of Exeter/PA).
Nick Hopkinson is also the High Sheriff of Chester (Nick Hopkinson/University of Exeter/PA).

“It was annoying, but it was nothing really. I only raised it because I was waiting for my brother and I had a bit of time to kill.”

The doctor carried out a blood test, which led to the revelation that Mr Hopkinson, a successful businessman specialising in home improvement companies, had high levels of iron in his blood.

Before long he was diagnosed with haemochromatosis and was on an 18-month programme of regular venesection, or blood-letting.

The father-of-three gave up drinking and eating red meat on the advice of his doctor after being told he was at higher risk of developing liver cancer.

“I’d never heard of haemochromatosis before my diagnosis,” he said.

“But my doctor told me I had a type of cirrhosis, or scarring on the liver, and that hugely increased my risk of dying of cancer. I felt absolutely fine, so that was a huge shock.”

Mr Hopkinson stuck rigidly to his treatment regime and lifestyle advice, losing four stone in weight, but in 2018 blood tests picked up signs that his body was fighting a tumour.

Mr Hopkinson underwent surgery in Manchester to remove half his liver (Nick Hopkinson/University of Exeter/PA).
Mr Hopkinson underwent surgery in Manchester to remove half his liver (Nick Hopkinson/University of Exeter/PA).

“They thought they’d caught it early, but it measured 5cm. That’s a tumour the size of a golf ball on my liver,” he said.

“It felt to me like the end of my life had started. I was convinced it was terminal. You don’t hear of many people surviving liver cancer.”

He underwent surgery at Manchester Royal Infirmary and a month later was told he was clear of cancer.

“It’s incredible really,” he said.

“My father died of liver disease – we don’t know if he had haemochromatosis, but it’s certainly possible. I’ve had my three sons tested, and they’re all carrying one of the genes, but they don’t have the condition.

“Now I want to do everything I can to raise awareness and improve treatment. I feel I’ve been given a second chance – I want to use it well.”

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