A 20-year-old thought she had an insect bite. She was diagnosed with an aggressive form of cancer and died months later.

Left: Jenna Patel poses in her bedroom for a photo. Right: Jenna Patel lies in bed during chemotherapy treatment
Jenna Patel was diagnosed with Ewing's sarcoma when she was 20.Photos courtesy of Cancer Research UK
  • 20-year-old Jenna Patel thought she had an insect bite on her shoulder. Tests showed it was a tumor.

  • Patel was diagnosed with a rare and aggressive form of cancer: Ewing's sarcoma.

  • Despite having chemotherapy and the tumor removed, Jenna died on May 13, 2022.

A 20-year-old student died from a rare form of cancer after what she believed to be an insect bite on her shoulder turned out to be a tumor.

Jenna Patel from Bolton, UK, was studying to be a school teacher when she discovered a lump on her shoulder after gardening with her mom and brother in spring 2021, according to the charity Cancer Research UK. After numerous tests, during which time the lump grew quickly, she was diagnosed with a rare form of bone cancer called Ewing's sarcoma in Spring 2021.

Early signs of Ewing's sarcoma include a tumor with dull or aching pain

Ewing's sarcoma is most common in children, teenagers, and young adults, because these are peak periods of growth, according to the charity Ewing's Sarcoma Research Trust.

Early signs of Ewing's sarcoma include a dull or aching pain around the tumor, different to that caused by an injury. There can also be noticeable swelling around the tumor that can be mistaken for other conditions such as blood clots, according to the charity. But the tumor might not be noticeable if it is deep-seated, for instance in the pelvis or spine.

This type of cancer is rare, with only 56 new cases diagnosed each year in the UK, the charity says. For those who are diagnosed with Ewing's sarcoma, the five-year survival rate is 86% if the cancer hasn't grown beyond the original tumor, according to the American Cancer Society.

Jenna Patel poses for a selfie
What she thought was an insect bite turned out to be a cancerous tumor.Photo courtesy of Cancer Research UK

When Patel was being diagnosed, her dad was receiving treatment for lung cancer. Her mother, Priti Patel told Cancer Research UK: "When we were told she had cancer, I felt numb. The news was too much to take in knowing that her dad was only a few miles up the road also going through cancer treatment."

After Patel's diagnosis in Spring 2021, she immediately started chemotherapy. Doctors told her it was a success and she would fully recover by March 2022.

Jenna's mother, Priti stands looking at her son (Jenna's brother), Liam
Jenna's mom and brother, who are raising money for cancer charities following her death.Image courtesy of Cancer Research UK

But the tumor began to grow rapidly once again after she stopped chemotherapy and had a break in treatment. Weeks before Christmas, she had an operation to remove the tumor. The surgery went well but the tumor was bigger than expected.

By early 2022, Patel was having breathing difficulties and scans revealed that the cancer had spread to her lungs. By April, chemotherapy was no longer having an effect on the cancer and she was given a terminal diagnosis.

She died on May 13, 2022, shortly after her 21st birthday.

Following Patel's death, her family have been raising money for cancer charities including more than £6,000 ($7,345)  for Cancer Research UK.

Her mother said: "Jenna remained so positive and determined that she inspired us all. Her death has left a huge hole in our lives and we miss her very deeply."

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