23-Year-Old Diagnosed With Cancer After Cough Mistaken for COVID

A young woman has been diagnosed with cancer, after doctors initially mistook her continuous cough for COVID-19.

Several months ago, 23-year-old Chloe Girardier, a caregiver from Harrogate in the U.K., developed a chesty cough which didn't go away.

She said she was initially denied an in-person appointment with a doctor, and that the correct diagnosis was only reached several months later, and only because she pushed for an X-ray.

"I had no lumps or any other noticeable signs apart from the continuous cough," she told Caters News Agency.

"When I started losing weight in October, that's when I really pushed for answers because it was noticeable to everyone around me.

"I can't believe it wasn't looked into further and if I hadn't pushed for the chest X-ray, I may still not have a diagnosis."

The X-ray revealed a mass inside her chest, measuring 10.8cm. She was diagnosed with Hodgkin lymphoma on December 3, approximately five months after first seeking medical attention.

"Even the doctor's were saying it was strange that I had a cough for such a long time but they weren't looking into it," she said.

"It's so hard to get appointments; they kept telling me I wasn't eligible for an urgent appointment because it was just a cough."

She said that she was asked "multiple times" if she had tested positive for COVID-19, which she found "frustrating because other illnesses still exist and a cough isn't just a sign of COVID."

Hodgkin lymphoma is a relatively rare form of cancer that develops in the lymphatic system, which produces infection-fighting white blood cells. It represents 0.5 percent of all new cancer cases in the U.S., and predominantly affects young adults.

Based on statistics, the National Cancer Institute (NIH) estimates that there will be approximately 8,830 new cases of Hodgkin lymphoma in 2021, and that approximately 960 people will die of the disease.

However, the earlier it is diagnosed, the better the chances of survival.

According to the NIH, the five-year relative survival rate for people diagnosed with Hodgkin lymphoma at the first stage of the cancer's development is 92.2 percent.

This drops to 78.5 percent for people who are diagnosed when it is at the more advanced fourth stage of development.

Girardier's chemotherapy treatment will begin days before Christmas, on Monday, December 20.

"This cancer could've been caught three months earlier and I'm just lucky it's this type of cancer, and not one that progresses really quickly," she said.

In a similar case, a 36-year-old personal trainer was diagnosed with terminal lung cancer, after thinking that her persistent cough was a symptom of COVID.

Research from the NIH has found that millions of people in the U.S. missed out on key cancer screenings because treatment against the virus was prioritized, which could lead to thousands of potentially avoidable cancer fatalities in the coming months and years.

Her aunt and uncle have set up a GoFundMe to raise money for Girardier, who has been signed off work for three months.

Woman with cancer in a hospital bed
Stock image of a woman in a hospital bed. Chloe Giradier's chemotherapy treatment is scheduled to begin on December 20, several months after she first sought treatment for her cough. fizkes/iStock