Ms Rohan mentioned that the instructor informed her that the lump on her thyroid was a nodule.
Sally Rohan, a 27-year-old medical student in New Jersey, was learning how to use an ultrasound machine last year as a first-year medical student when she was the first among her classmates to volunteer to get her thyroid checked. She later found out that she has Stage 1 papillary thyroid cancer, the most common of the four main types of thyroid cancer.
"We were taught how to ultrasound the thyroid because it's a really easy structure to ultrasound," Ms Rohan told Good Morning America. "We were looking at mine versus what we had seen in the videos that we watched before class, and I remember looking at it and saying, 'Wait, there's something wrong with mine. Mine looks bumpy.'"
Ms Rohan mentioned that the instructor informed her that the lump on her thyroid was a nodule. Although nodules are frequently encountered, the instructor advised her to capture a photo of the ultrasound and advised her to consult with a doctor for further evaluation.
After scheduling a follow-up appointment with her primary care doctor, Rohan underwent bloodwork to assess her hormone levels, which she reported came back within the normal range. Additionally, she mentioned not experiencing any symptoms indicative of a thyroid complication.
Primarily due to a gap in her medical insurance coverage, Rohan noted that she didn't undergo a formal ultrasound of her thyroid until October of this year, nearly one year after identifying the nodule during her class.
Upon receiving the formal ultrasound results, Ms Rohan revealed that she received a diagnosis of Stage 1 papillary thyroid cancer, which is the most prevalent among the four primary types of thyroid cancer, as stated by the National Cancer Institute and is associated with the most favorable overall prognosis. Notably, in Rohan's situation, the cancer had additionally spread to her adjacent lymph nodes.
"It was a complete shock," Ms Rohan said of receiving the diagnosis, adding that her family has a history of skin cancer, but not thyroid cancer.
Dr. Richard Jermyn, the interim dean of the Rowan-Virtua School of Osteopathic Medicine, where Rohan is enrolled as a student, expressed his surprise at Rohan's cancer diagnosis. He emphasized that the diagnosis might have been overlooked until a much later stage if not for the ultrasound class offered by the school.
"We go to great lengths to demonstrate to students the benefits of collaboration, including working with classmates to learn from joint experiences," Jermyn said in a statement. "The sequence of events that led to Sally's diagnosis and now medical cure is amazing, and spiritual to a degree. It's almost as if her medical school journey was meant to be."
Ms Rohan shared that as she pursues her studies to become a doctor, her diagnosis is providing her with valuable insights into the patient experience. This includes gaining an understanding of medical terminology, navigating insurance matters, and managing the coordination of appointments and lab work.
"I've learned how much of a full-time job it is to be a patient," she said. "That is a huge thing that I've learned, how disruptive it can be to your life even to just be on the phone that much or to have to deal with getting pre-authorizations for insurance."
As part of Ms Rohan's treatment plan, she is scheduled to undergo surgery to remove her thyroid and the affected lymph nodes, followed by a form of radiation therapy known as radioiodine.