Story By: Ana Marjanovic, Sub-Editor: Michael Leidig, Agency: Newsflash
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.
Gabriella Barboza – from Sao Paulo, Brazil – had been called up to the front of the class by her teacher Daniel Lichtenthaler to show 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 and waited until the class was over to tell her to get tested.
She followed his advice and went on to be diagnosed with a type of thyroid cancer called papillary thyroid carcinoma (PTC).
Gabriella, now 22, said of that day in mid-October 2020: “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.”
Gabriella was in her third term of medicine at the time and said she had no noticeable symptoms.
She said: “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.
Her treatment began at a hospital in Sao Paulo in November 2020.
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.
On 4th February last year, 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.”
She later commented: “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.”
Professor Daniel Lichtenthaler said he was shocked to learn Gabriella did indeed have cancer at the time.
He added: “But once I learnt the treatment had been successful, I was very happy.”