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Watch Out! Your Tattoos May Cause A False Positive For Cancer

June 25, 2015 1 min read

I love my tattoos. I'm planning more tattoos. I really have no plans to stop. To me, they tell an important story and showcase some kick ass artwork but they may be doing more than that... They may cause doctors to believe that cancer is present. This was the case for a 32 year old women being treated for cervical cancer. She has tattoos on her leg and thighs and the ink caused her PET scan to light up, indicating to the doctors that her cancer had spread. Surgeon Ramez Eskander, M.D. told CBS Los Angeles that the ink had lit up the lymph nodes which is a typical sign that cancer is indeed present. It wasn't until they were in the operating room that they realized that cancer cells were not present. The patient had her hysterectomy as planned but was spared radiation as there was no spread. Wait, what?  "When you tattoo, some of that ink will be absorbed in the cells in the lymphatic system and migrate to levels of lymph nodes," explained Eskander who recently published his findings in the Journal of Obstetrics & Gynecology.  "When there is a PET scan that shows a bright lymph node, if a patient has significant tattoos or body art, then you have to be cognizant that these might be false positives,” he said. It is unclear whether or not you should be concerned about this. Eskander described this particular patient's ink as 'excessive' so if you've only got a few, you're probably alright. Is this enough to make you rethink your tat plans?

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