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Aggressive bone tumour in jaw – not cancer caused by lipstick

A photo posted on Facebook shows a young woman with what seems to be a massive tumour on the lower part of her face – with the claim her condition was caused by lipstick.

Part of the long caption reads: “Haya ndiyo majibu niliyopewa hospitali na Daktari. Daktari aliniambia kutokana na matumizi makubwa ya rangi za mdomoni maarufu kama “LIPSTIK” Ndiyo sababu ya tatizo langu, Daktari alinambia ugonjwa umeshakomaa{Cancer} na hawawezi tena kuutibu.”

This is Kiswahili for: “These are the results I got from the doctor. The doctor told me that due to my lengthy use of lipstick, I got cancer which is at an advanced stage and is incurable.”

The caption is in the first person, suggesting it is the woman in the photo who is speaking.

But is this the story behind the photo? We checked.

10-year-old tumour in jawbone

A reverse image search of the photo brought up many reports of a teenager who had a tumour the size of a football removed from her jawbone by life-saving surgery in 2014.

The teen, identified only as Grace from the Democratic Republic of the Congo, was 17 years old at the time.

The surgery was carried out by Mercy Ships, an international NGO that provides free life-saving surgery for people where medical care is nearly nonexistent.

Grace appears in an episode of Discovery’s Body Bizarre on the TLC channel. The narrator says the “aggressive bone tumour” started growing her jaw in 2004 – when Grace would have been seven years old.

In the episode, Grace says: “It started from a little swelling inside and the gums started growing little by little. We went to the hospital and they didn't know what it was – they did nothing.”

‘Regular sassy teenager’

Grace’s story is told on the Mercy Ships website.

“Grace’s journey to healing began with a social media post,” the article reads. “A chaplain in a nation neighbouring the Republic of the Congo met Grace in a hospital and was shocked by her huge facial tumour.”

He blogged about it, and a reader thought Mercy Ships might be able to help. 

“The teenager was facing death from slow suffocation caused by the tumour growing both outwards and inwards,” Mercy Ships says. Grace underwent a complex surgery to remove the 2.2 kilogram tumour and a week later was fitted with a prosthetic jaw.

In a before-and-after photos on the Mercy Ships website, a smiling Grace is seen with the tumour removed.

Mercy Ships writes: “As Grace walked down the gangway headed for home, she looked like a regular sassy teenager, facing her future with new found hope and confidence.”

We found no evidence of a statement by the patient, a hospital or Mercy Ships that the tumour was cancerous or caused by a seven-year-old Grace using lipstick. – Grace Gichuhi


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