Medical student discovered she had neck cancer during cancer screening class, report says

A woman undergoes a thyroid screening.photostorm/Getty Images

  • Gabriella Barboza’s professor discovered worrying signs of neck cancer during a simulation at medical school.

  • Barboza, 22, had papillary thyroid carcinoma, the most common type of thyroid cancer.

  • After having his thyroid removed and other treatments, Barboza is cancer free.

Gabriella Barboza was a third-year medical student in Brazil when her teacher asked her to help demonstrate how to check for neck tumors. But Barboza played the part of the patient a little too well – surprising the doctor, who noticed concerning signs and encouraged her to have her neck officially checked, the New York Post Newsflash reported.

Barboza took her advice and learned she had papillary thyroid carcinoma, the most common type of thyroid cancer, the Post reported.

“When I found out, my world fell apart,” Barboza, 22, told Newsflash of his 2020 diagnosis.

“I kept thinking, ‘I’m too young to deal with this,’” she told Newsflash. “I cried a lot and I didn’t want to believe it. It’s a moment when you see that things can end.”

PTC is more common in women under 40, according to WebMD. It is not known what causes it, but it is linked to certain genetic conditions and may be a complication of radiation therapy for other cancers. Because it moves slowly, it’s usually treatable.

It may not cause symptoms, but as the disease progresses it can lead to a lump, difficulty swallowing and breathing, and a sore throat.

By the time Barboza’s cancer was caught, it had spread to other parts of his neck like his esophagus, Newsflash reported. Yet she was able to treat it by having her thyroid and other neck tumors removed and undergoing iodine therapy to kill lingering cancer cells.

In 2021, Barboza was declared cancer-free, the Post reported.

She is grateful to have gone to class on the day of the neck cancer detection lesson, the Post reported: “Perhaps I would not have discovered the disease so soon, my diagnosis would have taken much longer. and it could have been more serious,” she mentioned.

Barboza told Newsflash the experience gave her a greater appreciation for her chosen profession and what it was like to be a patient.

“I always wanted to be a doctor to take care of others and treat people, whatever their specialty,” she said. “But after what I’ve been through as a patient, I think my perspective has changed.”

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