Relief is one feeling an Australian woman must have felt when doctors told her that her cancerous lump was actually the result of tattoo pigment in her lymph nodes. But even though her diagnosis is making headlines, she’s far from the only person who’s dealt with this.
According to a study published in the journal Annals of Internal Medicine, a 30-year-old woman went to Royal Prince Alfred Hospital in Sydney, Australia, complaining of lumps in her armpits. The woman had no other symptoms and was only taking birth control at the time, but after feeling the lumps for about two weeks, she decided to go and see a doctor about it. The only other operation she had had were breast implants when she was 19 years old.
After confirming that the woman did indeed have lumps, the doctor ordered a PET-CT (positron emission tomography-computed tomography) scan. When the test returned showing many enlarged lymph nodes in her chest, doctors feared it was lymphoma.
But when the doctor took a biopsy of the lymph node, there was good news: no cancer! In fact, more tests confirmed that the woman didn’t have any other infectious disease — like tuberculosis — that cause enlarged lymph nodes. So what was the real culprit?
It turns out that about 15 years ago, the woman had a large black tattoo done on her back. About two-and-a-half years ago, she had a second smaller tattoo put on her shoulder. Upon examination, doctors noticed that the woman’s lymph node was black — a result of tattoo pigment. While not having cancer is definitely the best-case scenario, there’s still something terrifying about tattoo ink being able to spread that far into our bodies.
The woman in the study apparently also said that her tattoo was extremely itchy at times. Doctors suggest this was because the 30-year-old had an allergic reaction to the ink, which should make you wonder about the long-term impacts of tattoo pigment on your body. It took years for the woman in the study to notice the lumps, and 10 months after her visit, her lumps were gone without treatment.
Tattoo pigment has been found in the lymph nodes of corpses, demonstrating that the ink really is more than skin deep. While there’s no definitive answer for the ways in which ink can affect your health, it’s important to know what you’re getting yourself into before getting tatted.