Woman who thought she had an STI put off visiting doctor over ‘stigma’ but she actually had cancer
Olivia Wallace put off going to the doctor for months and is now urging others to get any worrying symptoms checked out
A woman has told of how she put off going to the doctor as she thought she had an STI, but it turned out to be tongue cancer.
Olivia Wallace, 26, has urged others not to delay getting worrying symptoms checked out.
And she said if she had waited any longer to get checked she might not be here now.
When did she first notice the lump?
Olivia from Barnes in Sunderland, first noticed a lump in 2015, but thought it was an ulcer.
She said: “I noticed a lump on my tongue and just thought it was a reocurring ulcer.
Olivia’s lump wasn’t particularly painful to begin with, but it started to grow larger, she said: “The lump was growing bigger, and I convinced myself it was a sexually transmitted disease (STI), so it put me off going to the doctors for seven months.”
At the age of just 20 years old Olivia, who was supported by the Teenage Cancer Trust, was given the devastating news she had cancer, she said:“When I eventually went to see a doctor aged 20, I was shocked when they said that I had tongue cancer, It had spread to my lymph nodes.”
Olivia’s cancer was actually stage 4, and she realises if she had waited any longer the outcome could have been very different, she said: “If I had left it much longer to see the doctor I might not be here today as I was told it would have soon spread across my body.
“There is a stigma attached to young women and STI’s, so that deterred me from getting checked out even though it was frightening me.”
What treatment did she have?
After diagnosis Olivia was given the option to have treatment on an adult ward, or on the Teenage Cancer Trust unit at The Freeman Hospital in Newcastle.
She said: “They said I’d receive my own room there and be treated around other young people by staff trained to look after us. I jumped at that. “
She had a radiotherapy mask fitted a few days later before starting 30 sessions of radiotherapy and six rounds of chemotherapy. Olivia also needed an operation to get the last bit of the tumour out.
“I didn’t feel like it was as bad as it was. I didn’t feel unwell other than this ulcer but I was probably walking around for months with stage four cancer.
“If I waited another month to get checked out, I may not be here right now.”
What are the signs to look out for?
She added:”I would encourage people to get anything that worries them checked. Sometimes you feel ashamed about going out and getting with people, but doctors are professionals who are there to help. They could save your life if it turns out to be something like cancer. If not, it’s a weight off your mind.”
There are five common signs of cancer in young people to be aware of and while they don’t necessarily mean the person has cancer, it’s best to check. The signs are:
- unexplained tiredness
- mole changes
- significant weight change
Olivia finished her treatment in May 2016 and recovered well from it. Due to her treatment her weight had dropped from 23 stone to 16 stone.
After her treatment she decided to adopt a healthier lifestyle, and said: “I decided to lead a healthier lifestyle as cancer put things in perspective. I stopped going out drinking as much and started going to the gym.
“I’m scared the cancer might come back, but I can’t let that rule my life. “
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