Teenager Who Thought She Had Allergies Diagnosed With Cancer

A teenager has urged people to get checked if they notice something wrong with their body after a supposed allergic reaction turned out to be cancer.

Erin Harris, 18, from Hampshire in southeast England, first started to feel tired and wheezy in October 2020. At first, she thought her symptoms were due to a flare-up from an allergic reaction to watermelon that she had suffered earlier in the year.

When she found a small lump on her neck that seemed to be getting bigger, she decided it was best to get it checked. But doctors dismissed it as a virus.

Harris decided that she should get the lump checked again once it grew to what she described as "an alarming size." After a number of tests, it was found to be a type of cancer called Hodgkin lymphoma, local newspaper The News reported.

Harris, who was treated for her cancer at a regional hospital, has gone on to urge young people to check themselves and visit a medical professional if they have concerns.

She told The News: "We know our bodies better than anyone, and we know even better when something is wrong, getting checked is the most important thing."

Hodgkin lymphoma is a cancer that starts in white blood cells called lymphocytes, which are part of the body's immune system. The cancer starts due to an abnormal change to the DNA in one of these cells.

Symptoms may commonly include a painless swelling in a lymph node, which can be in an area of the body such as the neck, armpit or groin. Other symptoms might include: high temperatures that come and go with no obvious cause, often overnight; heavy sweating, especially at night; and losing a lot of weight over a short period of time according to Cancer Research U.K.

Hodgkin lymphoma is the most common cancer diagnosed in teenagers aged between 15 and 19, according to the American Cancer Society.

The cancer organization estimates that in 2022 there will be more than 8,500 new cases of Hodgkin lymphoma in the U.S. with around 920 deaths from the disease.

Dr. Arif Kamal, chief patient officer at the American Cancer Society, told Newsweek: "Although childhood cancer screening is not routinely recommended for those without a significant family history, we do encourage children of all ages to receive regular checkups, for families to engage in age-appropriate conversations regarding family medical history, and for worrisome findings to be shared with clinicians.

"Many childhood cancers, like Hodgkin lymphoma, can be cured if found early or isolated to a small area. This highlights the need for parents and children to remain vigilant to health changes, such as easy bruising or bleeding, significant weight loss, or new lumps or bumps that do not go away."

Treatment for Hodgkin lymphoma is often successful and depends on the stage of the cancer. The main types are radiotherapy, chemotherapy, steroids and high-dose chemotherapy with a stem cell or bone marrow transplant.

Risk factors include infection with the Epstein-Barr virus, although its exact role isn't clear, and a family history of the disease.

Update 02/10/22, 5:10 a.m. ET: This article was updated to include a comment from Dr. Arif Kamal.

Doctor holding hand
A stock photo shows a doctor holding a patient's hand. A variety of methods are available to treat Hodgkin lymphoma. insta_photos/Getty