When she appeared on HGTV’s Beachfront Bargain Hunt, Nicole McGuinness was hoping to find a home. However, the experience likely ended up saving her life as her HGTV appearance led to a doctor noticing a lump on her neck.
Erich Voigt happened to be watching McGuinness’ episode of Beachfront Bargain Hunt and noticed a small lump on her neck. To most viewers, McGuinness would have appeared to be in perfect health. However, Dr. Voigt, who is an ear, nose, and throat surgeon at NYU Langone Health, thought the lump was cause for concern. “I’m trained to sort of notice these things,” Dr. Voigt told ABC News.
On Facebook, Dr. Voigt shared a video of McGuinness’ appearance on the HGTV noting the “left thyroid mass” he noticed on her neck. “She needs a sonogram and fine needle biopsy,” he wrote in his post. “I wonder if she knows and hope it’s benign.”
Thankfully, Facebook proved to be good for more than bad political takes from old high school classmates and cute baby pictures: Dr. Voigt’s Facebook diagnosis found its way to Nicole McGuinness.
Taking Dr. Voigt’s advice, McGuinness saw a doctor and had a biopsy on the lump. When the results came back, she was diagnosed with thyroid cancer.
Prior to Dr. Voigt’s Facebook post, McGuinness hadn’t noticed the mass. “Her doctors had never noticed it,” Dr. Voigt wrote in a follow-up Facebook post. He also shared that McGuinness would be seeing a surgeon to get treatment for the thyroid cancer. “Awesome power of Facebook and good people!” he wrote.
In an interview with ABC News, McGuinness expressed her gratitude for Dr. Voigt and the kismet timing of her appearance on HGTV. “It’s just a miracle in my opinion that he happened to see this on TV," she said. “I can’t express how grateful I am.”
The two met for the first time on a recent episode of Inside Edition. “You have no idea how much you’ve impacted my life,” McGuinness told Dr. Voigt.
According to the UK’s National Cancer Registration and Analysis Service, thyroid cancer is three times more common in women than men. Women between the ages of 40 and 44 are at the highest risk. (McGuinness is 32 years old.) While survival rates of thyroid cancer are high, per data from the National Cancer Institute, early detection of any cancer is crucial to a person’s ability to recover and heal.
Of course, not everyone has the benefit of being correctly diagnoses by a doctor watching HGTV. For women of color, in particular, breast cancer screenings don’t fully account for all of the patient’s health needs.
A recent study found that breast cancer screenings may be too general, not taking into account the health needs of women of color. According to the study, published in JAMA Surgery, the current screening guidelines are “inappropriately extrapolating data from largely white populations for use in racially diverse populations.” Meaning, things like average age of diagnosis only account for white women; the averages of black women, Asian women, and Latinx women are not accounted for.
Some current cancer screenings may not be accounting for all women’s health needs.
Study co-author Dr. David Chang explained in a press release, “The situation with breast cancer is one of the best examples of how science done without regard to racial differences can produce guidelines that would be ultimately harmful to minority patients.”
Hopefully, this study’s results will lead to change within the mammogram guidelines. (Although, as of yet, no change has begun in response to the research.) If anything, the study’s results and McGuinness’ experience on HGTV are a healthy reminder to see your doctor regularly and be aware of any conditions you may be predisposed to.