Young woman diagnosed with brain tumour after thinking it was anorexia symptom

Lauren graduating from UCL on May 23 2024
-Credit: (Image: Brain Tumour Research© SWNS)

A young woman who originally attributed her facial numbness as a symptom of anorexia, was diagnosed with brain cancer. Lauren Boon, 23, from Peterborough, had fought anorexia during her teenage years and connected numbness in the face and head to the eating disorder.

After the numb feeling persisted, Lauren consulted her doctor, resulting in an MRI scan. The outcome diagnosed her with grade 2 astrocytoma in December 2023, a slow-growing type of brain tumour.

Despite an operation to excise it in January 2024, a following inconclusive scan may signify the need for further surgery. Lauren, a health and wellbeing mentor, said: "I developed an eating disorder in 2020 when I was 19. I was under medical supervision for this and mentioned my symptoms.

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"The doctor said it's not something they had ever come across. I put it down to a sign of needing to eat something, in relation to maybe low blood pressure and low heart rate."

Overcoming her eating disorder in 2023, the numbness continued.

She said: "I went to the GP and they said it could be a trapped nerve around my jaw or something neurological. I was referred for an MRI scan in February 2023 and told I had a lesion on my brain. I knew from my degree in psychology when I studied a little about the brain, the word lesion wasn't good."

After another MRI in April 2023 identified a benign tumour, her six-month assessment revealed an urgent necessity for surgery. Lauren underwent a six-hour craniotomy operation to remove the tumour back in January this year.

Following the surgery, a biopsy established that the mass was a grade 2 astrocytoma. Now, she might face another operation after an April follow-up scan proved inconclusive.

Speaking about her condition, Lauren said: "Despite being in surgery for almost six hours I feel good apart from sometimes suffering with fatigue. The consultant wants to avoid radiotherapy because of my age."

With regards to her scans, she recalled the consultant's words: "She told me what they found on my scan last month it wasn't new growth but could be residual tumour."

Another scan later this month will determine whether a second operation is necessary and if so, Lauren will have to remain conscious due to the location of the tumour near her brain's motor strip. Her personal health trials inspired her to pursue a master's degree in eating disorders and clinical nutrition at University College London (UCL), which she successfully completed in May 2024.

Lauren also shares her journey through her TikTok account @diaryoflaurenx.

Opening up about her motivation, she said: "My own eating disorder inspired me to want to study and work towards supporting others who may be facing their own struggles, which is also the idea with taking to TikTok to talk about brain tumours."

Throughout this period, she balanced medical appointments, tests, result evaluations, and treatments while retaining focus on her studies which is something she nearly gave up on. She credited her parents for motivating her, saying: "My parents convinced me to persevere.

"I was so scared that I was going to have seizure after the doctor warned me this could happen, when it came to my exams, dad travelled with me to London and waited outside the room. I'm sharing my brain cancer journey on TikTok, including all appointments, treatment, scans and results.

"People have been shocked to find out I have a brain tumour and offered their support by liking and commenting words of support on my videos.

"It's meant people have shared their own experience of brain tumours with me. It makes the fact that one in three people know someone affected by a brain tumour so real."

In May, just three months after undergoing brain surgery, Lauren took part in '200k in May Your Way' to raise funds for Brain Tumour Research. The challenge involved participants choosing to walk, jog, run, cycle, swim, or combine activities, to cover a 200km distance throughout the month.

Lauren said: "There is no one set of symptoms or one size fits all when it comes to treatment. If we are to discover kinder treatment options and find a cure for this disease, we need greater investment into research."

Charlie Allesbrook, community development manager at Brain Tumour Research, highlighted the indiscriminate nature of brain tumours, saying: "Brain tumours can affect anyone at any age.

"In the UK, 16,000 people each year are diagnosed with a brain tumour yet, just 1% of the national spend on cancer research has been allocated to brain tumours since records began in 2002.

"Lauren has been through so much with her health, the resilience she has shown is admirable. We are extremely grateful that Lauren has shared her story with us and achieved 200k in May along the way."