A 20-year-old woman was diagnosed with cancer after avoiding the doctor for months because she was embarrassed that she may have contracted a sexually transmitted disease.
Olivia Wallace from Sunderland, located in northeastern England experienced problems with an area of her tongue for seven months before her father took matters into his own hands, and took her to the doctor. Wallace was then diagnosed with stage four tongue cancer that had already spread to her lymph nodes.
In 2018, about 8,001 people between the ages of 20 and 24 were diagnosed with cancer in the United States according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. That same year, 750 people between the ages of 20 and 24 years old died of cancer in the U.S. However, the amount of cancer cases is noticeably lower in this age group than in older adults.
Wallace first noticed the lump on her tongue in 2015 but thought that it was just a recurring ulcer. The lump continued to grow and became more sensitive to the touch, so much that Wallace would be in pain when she tried to eat and began to think that she had contracted an STD (sexually transmitted disease).
“Luckily for me. My dad had taken me to the doctors and he was in the waiting room as I thought it was an STI and I was embarrassed,” Wallace told Chronicle Live. “There is a stigma attached to young women and STIs, so that deterred me from getting checked out even though it was frightening me.”
At age 26, Wallace is now cancer-free and fears that would not have been the outcome if she had waited longer to seek medical help.
“I didn’t feel unwell other than this ulcer but I was probably walking around for months with stage four cancer,” she said. “If I waited another month to get checked out, I may not be here right now.”