A mum was diagnosed with a brain tumour after her symptoms were blamed on menopause.

Karen Griffiths, from Eastbourne, started suffering from one-sided pulsatile tinnitus, when a heartbeat is heard in the ear, in 2018.

Around the same time, the 60-year-old also began experiencing headaches in the morning, she started feeling unco-ordinated, struggled with speech and regularly lost her train of thought.

Karen visited her GP, part of East Sussex Healthcare NHS Trust, while suffering from tinnitus. She was told all her symptoms were most likely down to menopause and was sent home.

But when the “beat” in her ear got so loud it would wake her up at night she was referred to an ear, nose and throat consultant who sent her for an MRI.

It revealed Karen had a lump on the brain which was pressing on a major vein.


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The benign tumour was partially removed by surgeons and now Karen has regular MRI scans to monitor her condition and make sure it does not grow.

"I was suffering with symptoms for over three years and it gradually got worse,” said Karen, who is an insurance coach.

"Alongside that I was going through menopause and it is very well known that it can create headaches, brain fog and difficulty concentrating.

"One of the key things that got missed was that I was having headaches in the morning when I woke up.

"The one-sider pulsatile tinnitus got worse and worse but I was told not to worry about it.

"In my experience, they all too readily disregard them and blame them on something else instead.

"My symptoms were disregarded for a long time, despite things getting steadily worse. I ended up feeling like a time waster. Looking back, it was quite dangerous.”

The one-sided pulsatile tinnitus was one of the first symptoms Karen noticed. In April 2021 it became so loud she returned to her GP and a locum sent her for a scan at Eastbourne District General Hospital.

Karen said: "The consultation I had was more in depth. I could tell he was really listening to what I was saying.

"I could see his face clouding over when I was explaining that the one-sided pulsatile tinnitus was so loud it would wake me up."

Four days later on April 21, 2021, Karen was told she had a lump on the brain and she would need to be referred to a neurosurgeon.

As well as finding out her diagnosis, in the same week, Karen found out her mother Jillian Stevens, 83, was dying of cancer.

"It was a bit of a double whammy,” said Karen.

"I understood quite early on that the tumour was a benign meningioma, tumours that start in the layers of tissue that cover the brain and spinal cord, but that it was attached to a major vein which it had pushed to one side.

"The neurosurgeon advised me of the risks which among other things was risk to life.

“Initially I was in disbelief so I threw myself into my work as if nothing had happened.

"I didn't tell anyone, I didn't want my mum to know as it would have been heartbreaking for her.

"I didn't even tell my family because my mum had five weeks to live and I didn't want to add any more hurt."

In March 2022 Karen had an operation to remove her tumour at the National Hospital for Neurology and Neurosurgery, London.

It went well but resulted in a partial resection - part of the tumour has to be left in place as not all of it could be removed because of its location.

"I am still having nightly seizures which is as a result of the location of the tumour, and following the surgery,” said Karen.

"I also have yearly MRI scans to see how the brain is and if the tumour is growing.

"It has been really difficult, the after-effects of surgery were difficult to deal with.

"My speech, memory and balance are gradually improving. I haven't been back to work since September 2021 but my employers have been fantastic and I hope to be heading back to work soon."