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South African woman left with horrific mouth tumour after ‘doctors told her it was just a cold sore’

Clara van Heerden is now set to undergo an operation that will rebuild her jaw and lips using flesh from her arm.

Clara, who lives in west Pretoria, was told by her family doctor in 2016 to have her lip checked out as he thought it looked like cancer.

But when she went to the Steve Biko hospital in Pretoria they told her it was only a cold sore.

She claims the hospital only started to treat it as cancer after three biopsies and visible signs it was spreading.

She said: "Just after the third biopsy in July last year, it started growing and getting worse. Instead, all they did was prescribe some antibiotics and sent me back home again".

By December last year the cancer had spread to her jaw and lymph nodes.


She must now undergo a potentially life-saving operation and has set up a Facebook page to raise funds for it.

She wrote: "Cancer has spread and time is running out".

Anton, her husband of 28 years, said: "Since the first of this month, Clara could not eat anymore – the pain was either too much to bear or she could not keep the food in.

"Clara is very weak and she is struggling to walk.

"I hope that everything will start to work out for the best."

He explained: "The doctors will use a piece of her hip bone to mend the piece of jaw that they have to remove and a part of her arm's flesh for her lip."

Dr Mathabo Mathebula, spokesperson for Steve Biko hospital, said: "Unfortunately, we are unable to respond on the case directly as that would be contravening with confidentiality of a patient's health condition".

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