A young Whangārei dad was horrified to discover he had a deadly avocado-sized tumour, six weeks after being told it was probably a sexually transmitted infection (STI).

Hayden Baker remembers being in a room with his wife sitting next to him holding his hand, when a top emergency doctor asked him if there was any way he could have an STI.

Despite the 35-year-old firmly telling the doctor it wasn't possible, he was given antibiotics and was sent home.

Northland District Health Board stands by that decision, saying the number of people who fess up to having an affair while their partner is present is low.

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Medical records, seen by the Herald, show Baker was officially diagnosed with epididymo-orchitis, which is an inflammation most commonly caused by an STI, but could also be a urine infection.

His wife Leah said it was "extremely uncomfortable and frustrating" that the doctor was insisting he had an STI and they weren't listened to.

The couple said weeks later when they pushed DHB officials on why further testing wasn't carried out they were told it was because it was Christmas time, they were short-staffed and there was not a radiographer available.

Northland District Health Board chief medical officer Dr Michael Roberts verified this, saying he wanted to be clear they were very sorry there was a delay in the diagnosis.

"I want to front up and own up to what we did which was miss a diagnosis at a time where it would have been very difficult to make the right diagnosis straight away."

"The thing that I'm pleased about was that he was told if things didn't settle down then he should see his GP and he took that advice."

Baker's story dates back to December 28, 2016, when he was driving on Auckland's motorway and went over a bump and felt this "awful pain downstairs".

"I rang Leah who is a paramedic and she told me to get to the hospital as soon as possible," Baker said.

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"I'm a truck driver so I carried on to Whangārei, dropped my truck off and went straight to Whangārei Hospital that afternoon and was seen pretty quick."

Hayden Baker, pictured with his wife Leah Baker, has been left angered after a misdiagnosis of his testicular cancer led to the cancer spreading. New Zealand Herald photograph / Alan Gibson
Hayden Baker, pictured with his wife Leah Baker, has been left angered after a misdiagnosis of his testicular cancer led to the cancer spreading. New Zealand Herald photograph / Alan Gibson

He said the emergency doctor did a non-urgent ultrasound and physical examination and quickly came to the conclusion it was likely an STI, despite him saying it wasn't possible.

He was given antibiotics and pain relief before being sent home.

More than a month later, Baker was still suffering in "excruciating pain", some days not being able to walk.

He eventually went to his GP complaining something wasn't right. His doctor agreed and made an urgent referral to Northland DHB's urology department.

Baker said specialists were still convinced it was an STI but he pushed for further testing and he was seen by a radiologist who took one look at the ultrasound scan and said he could tell it was cancer.

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"It was a tumour the size of an avocado," he said.

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Roberts said a non-urgent ultrasound was often performed by an ED doctor using a cheaper machine that wasn't as thorough as a formal urgent ultrasound done by a professional sonographers who specialised in the area.

The day Baker got that scan was a Thursday and he said he was meant to have surgery that day but as it was the last operation of the day surgeons ran out of time.

"Then, on the Friday they tried to send me home and delay it until the following week.

"We had to put our foot down and demanded it be done that day and in the end they agreed, but during surgery they found it had spread to my chest."

It was officially diagnosed as stage four testicular cancer.

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Though Baker's prognosis didn't look positive, surgeons were able to successfully remove the avocado-sized tumour that day. He had one round of radiation and two rounds of chemotherapy over 42 days.

Against all odds, Baker was cancer free three months later - though he said it wasn't an easy road to recovery.

Hayden Baker says the financial burden of his battle had been huge as he had been off work for four months. New Zealand Herald photograph / Alan Gibson
Hayden Baker says the financial burden of his battle had been huge as he had been off work for four months. New Zealand Herald photograph / Alan Gibson

The truck driver said the financial burden had been huge as he had been off work for four months and ACC refused to compensate his loss of earnings because there was not enough clinical evidence to prove his outcome would have been different.

An ACC spokesperson said although the cancer was not initially diagnosed, there was no medical evidence it had advanced in the six weeks after his initial visit.

"The treatment injury claim was declined in 2017 and Mr Baker did not request a review of the decision," the spokesperson said.

"We acknowledge this has been a difficult time for Hayden Baker and we have a great deal of sympathy for what he's been through."

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Baker believes he would only have needed to take one month off work if it had been picked up early and he would have experienced as much suffering as he did.

"I feel ripped off. The pain it has caused my family isn't right."

"I feel genuinely disappointed to hear the amount of people being misdiagnosed and not listened to, young people especially."

Baker says Northland DHB wrote a letter of apology after he complained.

Though he's grateful an apology had been made, he said changes to the DHB's policy could have been made so that others weren't missed.

"I've become the go to guy for friends and family. I tell them if you're not happy about something, get it checked. Men are idiots when it comes to our health but it's so important not to neglect ourselves."

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About testicular cancer

• Cancer that develops in a testicle is called testicular cancer. When testicular cancer spreads, the cancer cells are carried by blood or by lymph, an almost colourless fluid produced by tissues all over the body.

• According to Ministry of Health statistics, 137 (34 Māori) cases of testicular cancer were diagnosed in the New Zealand in 2013 and 6 men (0 Māori) died from testicular cancer in 2013.

• Testicular cancer is most common in men aged between 20 and 40.

• In 1970, 90 per cent of testicular cancer patients with metastatic disease died of their cancer. Now, 90 per cent of them survive.