21-Year-Old Woman Died of Rare Bone Cancer After Being Told a Lump Was 'Nothing to Worry About'
Cancer Research UK
A young woman died of a rare bone cancer one year after being told that a lump on her shoulder was "nothing to worry about."
Jenna Patel, from the U.K., was 20 years old when she noticed a lump on her shoulder after gardening with her mom and brother. Although she assumed it was just a bug bite, the student-teacher went to get the lump checked out by a doctor. The physician dismissed it, according to her younger brother, Liam Patel.
"She came home one day and called me over," Liam told Manchester Evening News. "She said I have a little lump on my shoulder, and I told her it does not look so bad but to get it checked out. She went to the doctor and they said, 'It's nothing to worry about, we think it's a cyst.'"
"It carried on growing so she went back," he said. "After a few more tests, we found out it was something worse."
In July 2021, Jenna was diagnosed with Ewing's sarcoma, a type of cancer that occurs in bones or in the soft tissue around the bones, according to Mayo Clinic.
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Cancer Research UK
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"When we were told she had cancer, I felt numb," Jenna's mother, Priti Patel, told Cancer Research UK, Insider reports. "The news was too much to take in knowing that her dad was only a few miles up the road also going through [lung] cancer treatment."
There is only an average of 1,000 new cases of Ewing's sarcoma reported a year in the United States and it's most common in children, teens, and young adults as they correspond with peak periods of growth, according to the charity Ewing's Sarcoma Research Trust.
Symptoms of the cancer typically include pain around the site of the tumor (including swelling and redness), weight loss, fatigue or even paralysis.
While treatment for the disease has improved over the years, the Mayo Clinic says the cancer can spread to other areas of the body such as bone marrow, other bones, and the lungs. Even after chemotherapy and radiation, the cancer can return. The five-year survival rate is 82% if the cancer hasn't spread to other areas of the body, according to the American Cancer Society.
Cancer Research UK
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Following the diagnosis, Jenna immediately began chemotherapy and was told by doctors that, based on the success of the treatment, she would fully recover by March 2022.
However, a break in her chemotherapy led to the tumor growing rapidly and her symptoms worsening. By December 2021, Jenna was back in the hospital undergoing surgery to remove the tumor, but during the procedure, doctors discovered the tumor had spread to her lungs.
In April 2022, Jenna was told that the chemotherapy was no longer effective. She later died on May 13, 2022, shortly after her 21st birthday.
"Jenna remained so positive and determined that she inspired us all," her mother told the outlet. "Her death has left a huge hole in our lives and we miss her very deeply."
In her honor, Jenna's family created a GoFundMe account dedicated to raising money for the Ewing's Sarcoma Research Trust, which supports families and funds research for the rare disease.
"It's nice to see how many people cared about her," Liam told Manchester Evening News of the fundraiser, which garnered over $13,000. "She had so many great friends and they have all been helping out with the fundraiser. It's been hard but it's nice to talk about all the memories we have of Jenna."