Medical experts in Australia have expressed surprise, after discovering that a woman’s ‘cancer’ was actually a reaction to her 15-year-old tattoo.
The unusual case was reported upon in the journal Annals of Internal Medicine, and documented the unidentified woman’s condition.
The 30-year-old went to her doctor complaining of underarm lumps, which had been there for two weeks.
It was found that the lumps were actually swollen lymph nodes, and doctors believed that they were dealing with a type of cancer known as lymphoma.
When they put the enlarged lymph nodes under the microscope, they were surprised to see that they were filled with a black substance. And while they initially thought it could be melanoma, the truth was bizarre.
The black substance inside the lymph nodes, causing them to swell, was actually ink pigment from a 15-year-old tattoo on the woman’s back.
Even more concerning was the fact that these lumps, or enlarged nodes, also appeared in the woman’s chest and close to her lungs.
This was a unique case that investigating Doctor Christian Bryant and his team had no prior experience with.
“99 times out of 100, it would be lymphoma,” he wrote, in the journal.
So, what exactly was happening to the woman’s body? The team explained that her immune system had had an adverse reaction to the tattoo, years earlier.
According to Bryant, the woman’s immune cells treated the tattoo ink as a foreign substance, and ingested it. From there, the ink travelled from the skin cells to the lymph nodes.
The big problem, however, was that the pigment was too big for the nodes to break down, so they essentially hung around in the system for all those years.
Unfortunately, they have not been able to establish exactly why this reaction has occurred now – and how many other people could be suffering with it.
“I think there’s absolutely no way to know how common it is. Most people who have tattoos have absolutely no problems,” explained Bryant.
As for how it can be prevented, experts have reiterated the cardinal rule regarding tattoos: do your research, and make sure you’re going to a safe and reputable artist.