Medical student's cancer found during class demonstration

·3-min read

A horrified medical student discovered she had cancer when a professor used her as an example on how to diagnose lumps on a patient's neck in front of her class.

Gabriella Barboza, from Sao Paulo in Brazil, had been called up to the front of her classmates by her teacher to demonstrate to students how to check for neck cancers.

As he showed the class how to look for signs of the disease, he noticed something was not quite right with Gabriella.

He waited until the class was over to tell her to get tested.

She followed his advice which proved prescient as she was ultimately diagnosed with a type of thyroid cancer called papillary thyroid carcinoma (PTC).

Gabriella, now 22, remarks at how lucky she was to have attended class that day back in October 2020.

Source: Newsflash/Australscope
"When I found out, my world collapsed," the young student recalled. Source: Newsflash/Australscope

"I think if I hadn't gone that day, maybe I wouldn't have discovered the disease so soon, my diagnosis would have taken much longer and it could have been more serious," she said.

Gabriella was in her third term of medicine at the time and said she had no noticeable symptoms.

"When I found out, my world collapsed. I kept thinking: I'm too young to face this.

"I cried a lot and didn't want to believe it. It's a moment when you see things can end."

By the time Gabriella's cancer was discovered, the disease had already progressed and had reached other areas of her neck and also a part of her oesophagus.

However, PTC has a very high recovery rate and the doctors were very optimistic she would be cured as she started treatment in November that year.

The first step was surgery to remove the thyroid and the tumour mass that had spread to other parts of her neck. And in January last year, she underwent radioactive iodine therapy.

The treatment was a success and she was considered cured in February 2021. She now needs to be checked biannually to make sure the cancer does not reappear.

After being declared cancer-free, Gabriella wrote online: "After months of struggle, I want to record this remarkable moment in my life, which has made me a better person and has made me see the world in a different way."

"I always wanted to be a doctor to take care of others and heal people, regardless of speciality. But after what I went through as a patient, I think my perspective has changed."

The young woman who has more than 11,000 followers on Instagram said the experience changed her outlook on her chosen profession.

In an interview with the BBC, Ms Barboza said she learned the importance of paying attention to the details of every patient.

"I always wanted to be a doctor to take care of others and heal people, regardless of specialty. But after what I went through as a patient, I think the perspective changes," she said.

"All that I experienced changed my history with medicine and made me grow not only personally, but also professionally."


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