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Woman dies after itchy skin turns out to be symptom of cancer

Lucy Crossley died from a rare form of cancer after doctors repeatedly misdiagnosed the itch on her body, The Sun reports. She was plagued with a constant itch all over her body, but there was no rash or bite marks on her skin, and she could not understand the cause.

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Crossley was misdiagnosed and given lotion by doctors who thought she may have scabies, and when that didn’t work, she was given antihistamines in case the itch was allergy related. It was not until four months later that she was diagnosed with bile duct cancer.

According to the NHS, bile duct cancer (cholangiocarcinoma) is a rare but aggressive form of cancer that is found in the bile ducts (tubes that carry bile, a fluid used by the digestive system to help break down fats and digest foods). The bile duct system is made up of a series of tubes that begin in the liver and end in the small intestine.

The exact cause of bile duct cancer is unknown, but there are two main types of bile duct cancer, depending on where the cancer begins, the NHS reports. If the cancer starts in a part of the bile duct inside the liver, it is referred to as intrahepatic bile duct cancer, but if it starts in the part of the bile duct located outside the liver, it is known as extrahepatic bile duct cancer.

Unfortunately in most cases of bile duct cancer, there are very few symptoms until the later stages, when, according to the NHS, symptoms can include jaundice (which is described as yellowing of the skin and the whites of the eyes), unintentional weight loss and abdominal pain. If you experience any of these symptoms, visit your GP for advice.

What’s troubling is the fact that this type of cancer is reportedly on the rise in the U.K. In 2010, 1,832 people were diagnosed with it, and 1,720 died from it in England, while 2013 figures put these numbers at 1,965 and 2,161, respectively, The Sun reports.

“Figures are rising quickly and significantly. Back in 1968, there were fewer than 40 cases a year”, Professor Simon Taylor-Robinson revealed. “This is not just due to us getting better at diagnosing it — but we do not know why”.

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Crossley’s husband, Liam, made the brave decision to speak out about his wife’s death to both honour the anniversary of her death and raise awareness for the AMMF’s Cholangiocarcinoma Awareness MonthHuffington Post reports.

Speaking of the heartbreaking moment when his wife learnt she had cancer, Liam Crossley said it came as a “huge shock”.

“The moment they told us she had cancer, she broke down”, he told The Sun. “I tried my best not to cry too — I wanted to be strong for her”.

It took three visits to the doctor before Lucy was given an ultrasound, at which point her condition had already worsened and she was “unbearably itchy and yellow”.

“They thought she might have gallstones but couldn’t see anything on the ultrasound, so they referred her back to the GP”, Liam revealed. Following this, Lucy complained of a tight chest and was reportedly given liver function tests at her local A&E department.

“The results were insane. Her bilirubin level (a toxin produced in the body when red blood cells break down) was 395 — it should be 17”, Liam said.

This was in late August 2013, but despite these findings, doctors were unable to explain what was wrong with Lucy until October, when she was diagnosed with bile duct cancer. She began chemotherapy, and halfway through her treatment in October 2014, the couple were married.

“She didn’t even look ill. She was the most beautiful bride”, Liam gushed. “She didn’t even feel as if there was anything wrong with her”.

But days before Christmas that year, she was rushed to hospital with internal bleeding from the tumour that was squeezing her life in its grasp. She was told there was nothing more doctors could do to stop the cancer, and she died on Feb. 16, 2015, during surgery to have a vein bypassed.

“No one can really empathise — because I wouldn’t want people to feel the way I feel”, Liam said. “I just want greater awareness of this disease and to prevent any more people suffering the way Lucy and I did”.

For more information, you can visit the NHS, the Macmillan organisation and Cancer Research UK.

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