AUSTRALIA - Doctors in
Australia suspected a 30-year-old woman to have lymphoma - a cancer of
the lymphatic system - but after operation, they found her symptoms were
caused by something completely different. Her enlarged lymph nodes were
from a reaction to a 15-year-old tattoo.
The case was detailed in a new paper published in the Annals of Internal
The woman reported that she had small lumps under her arms that had been
noticeable for two weeks. According to the report, "she had no fever,
night sweats, weight loss, or pulmonary symptoms."
After several scans, the doctors suspected her to have lymphoma, a
cancer that affects the immune system.
After they removed a swollen lymph node from her under arm, they found
it was enlarged because it was filled with black pigment—not from cancer
The doctors concluded that she likely had a hypersensitive reaction to a
15-year-old tattoo on her back.
"The lymph system helps to filter our blood and helps to identify
infections so our immune system can react and fight the infection, but
they filter lots of other things, too, and in this case, they were
filtering the pigment," Dr. Melissa Piliang, a dermatologist at
Cleveland Clinic, told CBS News. Piliang was not associated with the
The woman had two tattoos - a large black tattoo on her back, that had
been there for fifteen years, and another on her shoulder that was
two-and-a-half years old.
Doctors believe that since the swelling occurred in both armpits, the
tattoo on her back is what caused the complications; however, it is
still a mystery as to why it took so long for her to have a reaction.
Piliang said these instances are rare.
"What's much more common is allergic reactions to tattoos in the skin,"
she said. Infections are also common. It is important to do research
before choosing a place to get a tattoo to ensure all safety regulations
"It's important that you go to a professional tattoo artist," she said,
"somebody who runs a clean and reputable business who follows sterile
procedures and understands what that means."