Woman’s Tattoos Mistaken for Cancer

September 10, 2015 Updated: November 19, 2017

A California woman got a PET scan and it was determined that her cervical cancer had spread to her pelvis. Bright areas around her lymph nodes alerted doctors to it.

The 32-year-old woman, whose name was not released, got her first diagnosis in 2012.

According to Fox News:

The type of scan the doctors wanted was a PET/CT fusion scan, which combines technology from both PET and CT scans, and requires that patients receive an injection of a radioactive tracer that makes tumors appear as bright spots on the scan.

The scan showed not only the woman’s cervical tumor, but also bright spots on the lymph nodes in her pelvis, which looked suspiciously like cancer metastases, the researchers wrote in their report of her case, published today (June 8) in the journal Obstetrics and Gynecology.

To treat her cervical cancer, the woman had surgery to remove her uterus, cervix, fallopian tubes and pelvic lymph nodes.

However, they examined the cells from her lymph nodes, they saw the cells contained tattoo ink and not cancer. The woman had more than a dozen tattoos on her legs.

“Those lymph nodes that were lighting up brightly on the PET scan were doing so because of the tattoo pigment that was in the lymph nodes,” study co-author Dr. Ramez Eskander said.

Eskander added that when one gets a tattoo, “some of that ink will be absorbed in the cells in the lymphatic system and migrate to levels of lymph nodes,” according to CBS Los Angeles.

“What we wanted to do [is] educate physicians, patients, families,” he added. “When there is a PET scan that shows a bright lymph node, if a patient has significant tattoos or body art, then you have to be cognizant that these might be false positives.”

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