Share on Facebook

11 Real-Life Cancer Symptoms That Were Spotted by Accident

Never underestimate the power of a chance occurrence, particularly when it comes to finding and treating cancer.

Unrecognizable father holding newborn baby son in his armsHalfpoint/Shutterstock

Her baby discovered her breast cancer

Nursing a new baby can be challenging enough without your baby screaming and becoming distressed whenever you offer him one of your breasts. This is precisely what happened to Sarah Boyle, 26, in 2016. Concerned, Boyle saw her doctor, who diagnosed her with breast cancer after a scan revealed a mass. “It was very fortunate I chose to breastfeed—otherwise my illness may not have been discovered,’ Boyle told Express UK.

11 Real-Life Cancer Symptoms That Were Spotted by AccidentHistoria/Shutterstock

Queen Victoria spotted cancer in Lady Flora Hastings

In 1839, a young queen couldn’t help but notice the swollen belly of Lady Flora Hastings, 33, the lady-in-waiting to Queen Victoria’s mother, the Duchess of Kent. Believing the royal court gossip that Lady Flora had fallen pregnant with the baby of the Duchess’s consort, Sir John Conroy, Queen Victoria insisted Lady Flora submit to an internal exam, which revealed Lady Flora was actually carrying liver cancer. Although there was no cure for Lady Flora, the Queen’s demand enabled Lady Flora to convalesce until she died later that year, but also caused a terrible scandal at court that mars Victoria’s reign to this day.

Happy mother taking a picture of her baby girl in crib with smart phonekikovic/Shutterstock

A photo revealed this infant’s cancer

When Noah Shaw was only three months old, his parents, Elizabeth and Bryan, noticed a strange white reflection in his eyes in flash photos of the baby. Having read that this could be an early sign of retinoblastoma (an eye cancer), the Shaws took Noah to the doctor—and found that he had tumors in both eyes. Noah is fine now, and his diagnosis has led to significant advances in the area of cancer diagnosis. Read about 9 more miraculous medical recoveries that still can’t be believed.

11 Real-Life Cancer Symptoms That Were Spotted by AccidentJohn Salangsang/Invision/AP/Shutterstock

Shannen Doherty’s dog sniffed out her breast cancer

“Before she was diagnosed with breast cancer, the former Beverly Hills, 90210 star says her dog, Bowie, was actually first to detect something was wrong,” reports People. Bowie would “obsessively sniff” her on her right side, which is where the cancer was ultimately diagnosed. Bowie stood by Doherty throughout the star’s treatment, sniffing her all over as if taking note of where the chemotherapy drugs were coursing around Doherty’s body. Doherty is in remission today and active in Stand Up To Cancer.

Domestic life with pet. Cat welcome his owner (young man) at home. Jaromir Chalabala/Shutterstock

English woman’s cat discovered her breast cancer

Angela, a forty-something woman from England, noticed her cat, Missy, was behaving strangely around her, “constantly pawing” at her chest. Sensing something odd, Angela saw her doctor. “It turned out I had pre-cancerous cells in the exact part of my breast where Missy had been pawing,” Angela told Express UK. After surgery to remove those cells, Missy went back to her old self…until she began exhibiting the same behavior again, at which point Angela went back to her doctor, who discovered more precancerous cells. Read up on these 15 cancer symptoms women should never ignore.

Beautician using a nail polish giving customer service a manicure at salonOdua Images/Shutterstock

Her manicurist realized she had skin cancer

Here’s a great reason to indulge in a little pampering: Jenn Skinner, a manicurist, told Cafe Mom about a customer asking for a dark nail color to cover a “black line” on her fingernail. Luckily, Skinner recognized that it was skin cancer, which turned out to be an aggressive form called “acral lentiginous melanoma.”

Young woman having her head massagedAsia Images Group/Shutterstock

Her massage therapist spotted her skin cancer

An Illinois woman in her 50s can thank her massage therapist for saving her life. Pat Noth was getting a massage from Danford Schmidt, 48. He noticed some spots on the backs of Noth’s legs that “just didn’t feel right,” Schmidt told the Quad City Times. When Schmidt told Noth his concerns, Noth didn’t react immediately. It took a few more massages for Noth to see a doctor, who discovered those spots were basal cell skin cancer—a very treatable form. These are the 10 spots you ignore when you’re checking for skin cancer.

11 Real-Life Cancer Symptoms That Were Spotted by AccidentGlasshouse Images/Shutterstock

King George VI’s lung cancer was discovered due to leg pain

In 1948, Queen Elizabeth II’s father, King George VI, was suffering such debilitating pain in his right leg and foot that he was forced to delegate most public appearances to the then-Princess Elizabeth. The King’s doctors diagnosed him with a circulatory blockage in the leg and prescribed leg surgery, but as his health continued to decline, it was suspected the blockage was actually in the King’s lung. In fact, the blockage was lung cancer, which is what King George VI died of, in his sleep, in early 1952.

Orthopedist examining patient in hospitalPixel-Shot/Shutterstock

A chiropractor realized a man had lung cancer

A case study in the Journal of Chiropractic & Manual Therapies describes how a 76-year-old man sought the help of a chiropractor for pain in his shoulder. It turned out the pain was actually caused by lung cancer that had metastasized to the man’s collarbone and spine. “Musculoskeletal symptoms may reflect the first sign of primary or metastatic pulmonary disease,” the study concludes. “Thoughtful evaluative procedure and clinical decision making, combined with the use of appropriate diagnostic tests, may allow timely identification of primary or metastatic disease.” Here are 14 more cancer warning signs doctors should never ignore.

teethSuppakrit Boonsat/Shutterstock

A toothache turns out to be cancer

When Joanne Todd, 35, went to her dentist with a throbbing tooth, she never imagined that she needed anything more than a simple filling, reports the Daily Mail. In fact, that toothache was the clue that led Todd’s dentist to take an X-ray, which led to the discovery of a mass in Todd’s jaw, which turned out to be cancerous. Todd had surgery to remove the cancerous mass and to reconstruct her jaw with part of her hipbone.

Man with disgusted expression closing his nostrils with his fingersfile404/Shutterstock

His partner noticed an off smell

“My partner had a sour wine-like smell,” David1965 told the members of the Cancer Compass message board. “I deep cleaned the bedroom and replaced bedding pillows and everything that I could think of because I was not sure where the smell was coming from.” But the smell didn’t go away and ultimately, he urged his partner to see a doctor, who diagnosed colorectal cancer. Thankfully, scientists are making great strides in using smell to diagnose colorectal cancer. Don’t miss these 50 other health symptoms you should never ignore.

Lauren Cahn
Lauren Cahn is a New York-based writer whose work has appeared regularly on Reader's Digest, The Huffington Post, and a variety of other publications since 2008. She covers health, fitness, yoga, and lifestyle, among other topics. An author of crime fiction, Lauren's book The Trust Game, was short-listed for the 2017 CLUE Award for emerging talent in the genre of suspense fiction.